Two-time cancer survivor discusses her fatigue and possible answers for it.
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Call it tired. Call it fatigue. Call it a result of cancer or cancer’s treatment — or not. I would simply like to have the energy to “pop” out of bed and begin my day like I began my days before cancer. Most days I wake to find myself still tired, again. No, I am not depressed — I get out of bed every day. I like my life. I just want more energy to apply to my life. After breast cancer over five years ago and melanoma over one year ago, I want my drive back. I am motivated to live. I want to live. I just want to live more energetically. As a cancer survivor, do you struggle with this too?
The last time I wrote about cancer fatigue
, I mentioned going to the doctor and all the tests that were run. So far, they have all pretty much come back “normal.” (I would strongly suggest to fellow survivors struggling with fatigue that they keep asking their generalist to run tests and to refer them to specialists for tests as well. It is worth pursuing this symptom. It is important to pursue this symptom. Good rest is so very, very important for the mind, body and emotions. Be persistent).
The most recent test I just took was a sleep study. I found out I have sleep apnea! I stop breathing about twenty times per hour at night. Twenty times per hour is actually at the low end of moderate sleep apnea. With my CPAP machine, this appears to be dropping to around seven times per hour. My understanding is that is pretty close to “normal,” which would be someone who would not need to have a CPAP machine. Sleep apnea is more common than I had previously realized. Sleep apnea is sometimes related to weight gain (and yes, I have been struggling with my weight), but it isn’t always related to being overweight. It can be a structural issue with someone’s airways and there are other reasons too.
In my case, I have not noticed a significant difference in my energy level since starting to use the CPAP. This frustrates me, but I won’t quit. I will keep using my CPAP and I will keep trying to find answers and solutions to my fatigue. Why am I mentioning all this? I want you to be stubborn if you are tired. Keep working on answers. Maybe a CPAP is what will help you. Maybe something else will be helpful. Don’t quit.
There are also studies that talk about how the type of light before lights out may affect energy level and fatigue upon waking. I believe it is the bluish light that some studies say is the problem. Screen time including television, computers, phones and tablets may adversely impact sleep quality as well. I am going to read up on these studies and try a couple things — possibly going back to print media reading before bed and/or trying yellow/brownish tinted glasses over my readers if I am reading from a screen!
I also continue to hope that tweaking the CPAP will help me. I am trying to work on exercising and eating better, too. I guess I feel like I can constantly whine about and be frustrated by my fatigue or I can keep working on it. I choose to keep working toward a solution.
I am a survivor. We are survivors. So far, we are still here and still fighting. I am not a quitter and neither are you. Let’s continue to pursue our fatigue and press for solutions. The answers are out there and together we can find them! Please let me know what is working and not working for you if you, too, struggle with fatigue.