Tired of Cancer Fatigue: Let Me Off Cancer's Merry-Go-Round

Breast cancer, melanoma survivor and chemotherapy warrior is weary but she isn't ready to quit yet.
PUBLISHED June 15, 2016
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.
Cancer fatigue feels ongoing to me. I won’t let it win. I am trying different things to cope, and yet the fatigue continues for me even after six years out from my first cancer diagnosis. I have tried getting plenty of rest. I completed a sleep study. I saw a sleep psychotherapist. Blood work and PET scans have all been done. I am currently trying melatonin. My next steps, the ones I actually hold the highest hopes for, are improving my diet and exercise habits.

Maybe I am just getting old? If so, those feelings of fatigue still correlated suspiciously with my chemotherapy treatments, surgeries, radiation and beyond. Chemotherapy is a big deal. It saved my life. It changed my hormones. I also suspect it changed my body and brain. I know it changed my hair. I am not bald. I have hair, but it is thinner and more brittle than it was before chemotherapy. I am also more brittle since cancer. Maybe different chemotherapies have different side effects for different people. That wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

Maybe I need to look at things differently. My youngest told me a cloudy, grey day is beautiful. The colors are muted and it is still beautiful. Maybe I could look at my energy level this way too. I don’t know.

I am weary and tired of being weary. Life is good. I am not saying it isn’t, but I am in a different gear since cancer treatments. I would like to “kick it up a notch” and yet I can’t seem to manage to do it. I will not quit. I will keep trying. I will pull myself forward. Every day is truly a blessing. There are a lot of things I would like to do, and I run out of energy before I run out of hours in the day. For me, that is a hard reality to accept.

Do you know what scares me? Fatigue. This is mind-numbing, body-stopping fatigue. I don’t like it when I feel too tired to reach out to my friends and family, even by email. I don’t like it when I can’t do my passion — writing.

"Always pull yourself forward,” is the advice from a friend of a friend. Yes, it is pulling, sometimes it is dragging, and it is sound advice. Still, sometimes I feel the rope slipping through my fingers or I feel like I just don’t have the energy to grab onto the rope, much less pull myself forward on it. “You look good,” says the doctor.

Maybe, but I don’t feel good, I think. I have had all the tests — bloodwork, full-body check, mammogram and even a PET scan. Everything, thank goodness, checks out OK. Also, I am not terribly anxious or depressed. I am just weary. I don’t feel like myself. I haven’t felt like myself since my first diagnosis. Maybe weary is part of new normal?

Cancer fatigue — I won’t accept it. I will keep exploring and trying and doing. I will be more stubborn than cancer. Eating habits can be improved. Exercise will help me gain more stamina.

I would appreciate your input on cancer fatigue and I will keep you posted!
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