Cancer Survivors, Don't Burn the Midnight Oil


One of the hardest side effects from cancer is the fatigue. This survivor explains why it is so important for cancer survivors to not overdo.

One of the hardest things about having cancer and the resulting treatments is the constant fatigue. Most of us lead busy lives and are totally unprepared when the tiredness hits us like a ton of bricks.

The problem is learning to sort out what needs to be done now, and what can wait. Priorities have to be set. We all know that everything seems important when you are too weak to do anything! We need to ask ourselves what can possibly be postponed until tomorrow.

Personally, when I worked and went to school and kept an insane schedule, I would go and go and go until I was running on empty. I always felt there was a little more oil in the lamp — until I got sick. My family doctor would tell me to take it easy, which I did for a day or two. Soon I was back up and running again.

Cancer isn’t like that. The fatigue lasts longer. The chemo and radiation treatments do not make someone fatigued for only a day or two. It can last for months. With my type of cancer, I will be on chemo for the rest of my life. I can no longer sit around and look at what needs to be done, thinking I can perform some tasks when I am better.

Time management totally changes when a person has cancer. Before cancer, the extra reserve always seemed to be there. After cancer, it isn’t.

In my humble opinion, the United States puts way too much emphasis on how much we get done in a day. Pick up any newspaper, look at any article online, or peruse any women’s magazine and see how many times “saving time” in a busy world is mentioned.

Save for what? Many other cultures (and a few in the US) feel that spending time with family and friends is more important than anything else, including work. What a novel thought!

I no longer try to see how much I can get done in a day. Some days, all I can do is take care of myself. In other words, I do nothing but eat and sleep. There is no reserve in the tank. I try not to plan too much in one day for that same reason. I may be in bed for the next several days if I overdo it.

Someone once told me that the body is like an oil lamp. If we shine our light and try to take care of everyone else without pausing, we burn out. We need to stop occasionally and replenish the oil. If we do this, our light can continue to shine and inspire others.

I constantly have to remind myself that if I don’t feel good I am no use to anyone else. If I am too busy, I have no time for friends and family.

So, renew the oil. Chill for a day or two. Instead of fighting the fatigue, make it a “jammie” day. Wear your pajamas all day and relax! You are not wasting time, but making it so you can do more. The world got along without you before you were born, and it will be OK now!

Reorganize your thinking, figure out your priorities and replenish your oil. You will be healthier and happier for it. Meanwhile, your light shines so you can help others get through the darkness! And this is really what life is all about.

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