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Cancer Fatigue: Don't Let It Win

This two-time cancer survivor is worn out, but not quitting.
PUBLISHED June 16, 2018
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,or

There is now a name for the extreme weariness and fatigue during and after cancer treatment that we cancer survivors have known about for decades. It is called cancer-related fatigue (CRF for short) or simply cancer fatigue. The American Cancer Society describes cancer-related fatigue. Research and the development of tools to combat this fatigue are ongoing. There are suggestions out there to help deal with fatigue, as well as new tools including phone applications that are just becoming available for cancer survivors.

Know that you are not alone. Get stubborn and don't let cancer's side effects (the short-term and long-term ones) win. We are all unique and we can each find the help and the tools to beat cancer fatigue. You deserve to get back to your regularly scheduled life.

Even with plenty of rest and years out from both of my cancer treatments, I still sometimes struggle with cancer fatigue. When this happens, I reach for the techniques that work for me. I get as much rest as I can. I try to exercise. I work to make healthier eating choices. I work, take a break, get back to work, take a break as I follow the signals of my body. In other words, I sometimes work in fits and starts but it gets done!

Some days I just get tired of feeling so tired. I take a breath and practice gratitude at those moments. Sometimes I wonder if I am just older, yet the fatigue originally appeared during and right after cancer treatment, and it has felt like the same fatigue all this time. My hair did not return all the way either – it is definitely thinner and it breaks more easily than before chemotherapy treatments. Still, life goes on.

Currently, I am trying the phone application called Untire. I like that Untire offers a variety of inspiration, activities and techniques to pick and choose from for each individual. I think a phone app will be a great fit for the generations of people who always carry their phones and who seek to use their phones in so many ways.

On some fatigue days, I just need to change my perspective. Other days, I need something, a quote, an article, a walk around the block, something to bump myself out of the rut that is fatigue. Life really is good, and I will work every day to being an active participant.

What sometimes frightens me? Yes, I said frightens. I am frightened when the fatigue is so strong that I struggle to reach out to my family and friends and when I am too tired to even pursue my passions in life (writing, socializing, getting outside).

I have shared this friendly advice before and it bears saying again: "Always pull yourself forward." Do one thing. It will improve your mood and it may even motivate you to do something else too.
My oncologist tells me I look good every time I see her. Maybe I look OK, but I do not always feel OK. Some days I am weary, and I am not feeling like myself. Still, I am here, and that counts for a lot.

Do not accept cancer fatigue. There are tools. Cultivate your own persistence. Do not let cancer win. Get stubborn. Dig in. Above all, I will never ever quit, and I don't want you to quit either.


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