Fatigue is unfortunately a very important part of the disease: it affects everyone in a different way and can be quite disabling. Simple activities such as preparing a meal, climbing stairs, washing or reading can be very difficult. To help you understand this phenomenon, here is our dedicated guide.
For a healthy person, fatigue is the result of a long workday or intense physical/intellectual activity. It always has an identifiable cause and often goes away with a good night’s sleep. However, this great fatigue is felt permanently in the daily life of sick people, even when you haven’t made any effort, and putting an end to it is much more difficult.
Where does it come from ?
The first factor of fatigue is stress. The announcement of the illness, waiting between the (very) numerous medical exams and other treatments, hospitalisations, all this causes obvious stress that does not leave you and makes you tired, which is quite normal!
The second factor to be considered are the treatments themselves, especially heavy and long-term treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. Chemotherapy causes a great deal of fatigue: on the one hand because your body rejects the treatment with all its might, making you ill, which makes you tired; on the other hand, chemo changes the composition of the blood by attacking the bone marrow and causes what is known as aplasia. Aplasia is actually a combination of anemia (too low a level of red blood cells), too low a level of white blood cells (leading to an increased risk of infection), and too low a level of platelets (increasing the risk of hemorrhage), so there are plenty of reasons to be tired! This will intensify in the 4 to 10 days following the treatment, but don’t worry : it will gradually decrease until the next treatment.
The most important thing to know is that the chemo will make you very tired, so you will have to adapt your daily life to this.
In the case of radiotherapy, scientific studies have shown that fatigue varies according to the irradiated area and the location of the tumour. It also depends a lot on how tired you are at the beginning of the treatments, so your doctors will assess this state before the start and adapt the treatments. Lastly, radiotherapy, like chemo, has undesirable effects such as nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulties, … which will also tire you. Don’t hesitate to always ask your family and friends to help you with the daily activities that are too tiring for you during your treatments! They are there for you, don’t be afraid to ask for help 😉
Surgery is the last type of treatment that is particularly tiring. An operation is already stressful for a healthy person, so it can affect you a lot. An operation is tiring for different reasons: the anesthetic itself, the wounds that may have difficulty healing, the pain, the anxiety before and after, the apprehension of the results… It will take time to overcome this fatigue, but whether it is a week or a month, you will be able to regain your energy ! The most important thing is that you manage to stay positive 😉
How to adapt your daily life to this fatigue ?
In periods of intense fatigue, it is essential that you rest as much as possible (yes, we’re stating the obvious !), so here are some tips to help you preserve yourself :
- Make sure you differentiate things according to their importance: do only what is urgent or necessary, treat yourself and consider your ability to do things. It’s all about listening to yourself and setting priorities. Above all, you need to rest ! You may need the help of your family and neighbours, to have your children looked after for a while, etc … One tip is to list the important things you have to do every day : this will give you peace of mind and you will not forget anything, thus avoiding unnecessary stress. Lastly, don’t feel guilty about your condition ! You don’t have to feel bad about being tired and unavailable to do certain things, it is perfectly normal that you are tired, and your loved ones know it !
However, be careful not to sleep too much during the day: you risk shifting your sleep rhythm and not being able to sleep at night. It’s all about finding the right balance.
This little testimony found on e-cancer.fr should reassure you : “After my lung operation, I felt fine, except that I slept fourteen hours a day. Then it went to twelve hours ! Two months later, I still sleep ten hours a night and sometimes I take a nap. I’m a bit out of step with my family, but it seems that’s how my body heals ! »
- Lastly, it is important that you be careful not to fall into the vicious circle of fatigue and discouragement : you must not give up your efforts because of fatigue, it would only make you feel worse. Don’t hesitate to talk to the nursing staff when you feel like giving up, they are there to advise you, soothe your fatigue and restore hope.
How to fight against it ?
In order to fight against fatigue linked to stress and anxiety, do not hesitate to talk to the nursing staff, we cannot stress this enough ! They are often very busy and can give the impression that they don’t have time, but they are there for you. It’s even better if you get on well with a nurse, doctor, or care assistant, they will probably be there for you even more if they know you better. Talking to them will allow you to better understand all the stages of your treatments, to reassure you about their effects, to know what’s best for you to eat… In short, they will be able to answer most of your questions.
There are also many professionals in and outside the hospital that can help you treat your fatigue. Physiotherapists, psychological help, occupational therapists, dieticians and others will surely intervene in your life to help you recover from your treatments, surgeries and their side effects.
However, if you feel the need for more “care” in order to relax as much as possible and reduce your fatigue, you can try several activities. First, you can turn to socio-aesthetics in order to regain your femininity, to feel more in tune with your body and to feel better in your head.
Another solution : alternative medicine. They can really help you to relieve your fatigue. Whether it is acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese medicine or others, many of them have proven themselves to relieve patients. We have written a small article on complementary medicine that might be of interest to you !
Sport is also a very good way to fight against fatigue ! Contrary to popular belief, physical activity is perfectly possible when you have cancer and can help you feel more rested : with sport, it is your mind and body that are being treated. To find out more, we’ve put together a little guide on the activities that can be done at any time during the illness, here you go : 😉
Lastly there are some simple tips to help you rest and say goodbye to fatigue at home ! Pamper yourself: run a bath, apply a moisturising mask to your face to reduce signs of fatigue and nourish your skin. You can also add a slice of cucumber on each eye and you’ll be as good as new (we guarantee it will work ! Even if it looks like an American film, putting two fresh cucumber slices on the eyes is very pleasant and effective on dark circles). Another option : meditation. Although it’s not very well known in France, it has positive effects on reducing stress and on the ability to rest. There are many websites and apps to discover meditation. We recommend the mobile app Petit Bambou (in French) or Head Space (in English) which will guide you step by step !
We hope that you will be able to knock out your fatigue with all these little tips ! Don’t hesitate to share yours with us !
Have a beautiful day 💕