Residual Pain After Breast Cancer: Could It Be Cancer-Related Fatigue?

Residual pain after breast cancer can be cancer-related fatigue. Learn more about the signs and symptoms from this survivor.

Residual Pain After Breast Cancer, Could It Be Cancer Related Fatigue?

By Bonnie Annis

Introduction: Residual pain experience after breast cancer can be cancer related fatigue. Learn more about the signs and symptoms from this survivor.

Some mornings I wake up feeling like a gelatinous blob. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get moving. My body hurts. It’s a general malaise that’s difficult to describe, but if I had to use words, I’d say it feels like I have the flu. Every muscle and joint in my body aches and it takes great effort to move. I have to work hard to complete menial tasks and there are days when I just can’t manage to do a single thing. It frustrates me and I don’t like feeling this way, but it’s a part of my life now.

At my last appointment, the doctor asked how I was feeling. I was hesitant to describe my extreme tiredness. He could tell I wasn’t my normal self and kept prodding. Finally, I burst into tears and just said, “I hurt all over.” He looked at me with a blank stare and I imaged he was really rolling his eyes but I just couldn’t see it. After performing some lab tests, the doctor explained my blood work was fine other than lower than normal levels of vitamin D. He performed a physical exam, poking and prodding my body at various muscles and joints. Finally, he came to the conclusion I had cancer related fatigue compounded by Fibromyalgia. I was sent home with a prescription for 50,000 I.U. of vitamin D per week for a month, an antidepressant, and an anti-inflammatory medication to help with the pain.

I didn’t understand why he prescribed an antidepressant. I wasn’t depressed, I was just hurting.

I’d never heard of cancer related fatigue before so naturally, being the curious, I search the term on the internet. Wanting to learn more about it, I read many articles. It seems most of the articles presented the same information and the symptoms of cancer related fatigue were real.

According to the American Cancer Society, some of the symptoms included, but were not limited to:

  • Feelings of tiredness that doesn’t get better
  • Becoming more tired during or after normal activities
  • Putting less energy into your personal appearance
  • Being too exhausted to do things you normally do
  • Feeling a heaviness in your arms and legs, as if they’re hard to move
  • Having no energy
  • Having an all over weakness
  • Wanting to spend more time in bed or having trouble sleeping
  • Having an inability to concentrate or focus
  • Having trouble remembering
  • Being sad, depressed, or irritable

Sometimes I wonder if my doctor thinks I’m just a perpetual hypochondriac. At each visit it seems I bring up another malady. At times it feels like I’m constantly whining about what breast cancer has done to my body. It is not my intention to be a chronic complainer. My intention is to share what I’m going through in the hopes it will help others know they’re not alone in their suffering. I also want them to understand cancer related fatigue is real. It isn’t just something that begins and ends suddenly.

Understanding cancer-related fatigue helped me realize I’m not just tired. There is a real reason behind my physical exhaustion.

When I think about all the physical trauma my body has experienced after having been sliced open, radiated, and medicated, it’s no wonder I’m constantly exhausted.

If doctors know about cancer related fatigue, why don’t they give us a heads up that we might experience it? And when we do, why don’t they give us concrete options to help us deal with it?

I am thankful there are doctors willing to call this extreme fatigue by its correct name and not just poo poo it as some minor inconvenience.

To give you an example of my cancer related fatigue, it’s only taken me about ten minutes to write this article but in so doing, my shoulder muscles are screaming out in pain, the joints in my arms are aching, and I feel like I can’t bear to sit here one more minute. If you think I’m exaggerating to make a point, I forgive you because I’m telling the truth.

If you want to learn more about cancer related fatigue, please check out these websites for helpful information: