Cancer Fatigue – Why am I so tired?

sleeping-webCancer fatigue, fatigue means tiredness that doesn’t go away when you rest. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of cancer treatment and often one of the hardest to deal with. First of all, there are things you can do to help.  Let your doctor know. Some cancer treatments can make you anemic and anemia can make you fatigued. You can have blood tests to check for this. Often anemia can be treated and your fatigue lessened.

There are other reasons you can be fatigued that have nothing to do with your cancer, your doctor may check your blood to make sure you don’t have a thyroid condition (for example). Fatigue and depression can also be linked, sometimes treating an underlying depression can help lessen the symptoms of fatigue.

There is lots of information on the internet on cancer fatigue, the trouble is most people with fatigue are too tired to look for it!

Macmillan/Backup produce a booklet, you can read it online here. Or (if you’re in the UK) you can phone them and they can send you a copy.  There is a short (5 page) leaflet from an American hospital and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey called Cancer Fatigue Awareness. Another American charity, The Lance Armstrong Foundation, Live Strong, also produce a booklet on cancer fatigue.

Most of these resources suggest keeping a fatiuge diary.  This booklet from The Irish Cancer Society  has a useful diary at the inside, you can circle how you feel on a particular day and let your doctor see.

The next two suggestions are a little odd, but this diary from an Arthritis Charity has a very good diary that you can fill in to show how fatigue is affecting your life. It also has a 6 week walking program, where you set your goals and see if a little daily exercise helps you feel less fatigued (there is now a lot of research to say that an appropriate level of exercise is the best way of improving fatigue.)  There is a UK arthritis charity called “Arthritis Care“. They have developed a course called “Challenging Your Condition” it is aimed at anyone with a long term health condition(not just arthritis, e.g. diabetes, heart disease) and runs over 6 weeks. You can find the course dates in Scotland here.

Courses like this can give you tips on managing day to day and suggestions for things your might not have tried. Sometimes specific cancer charities (e.g. breast cancer care) run courses in Aberdeen, check with their websites directly for more information.

Interestingly scientists are now trying to find out exactly WHY people with cancer get fatigued.  There are chemicals in the body that change during cancer treatment and scientists are trying to develop drugs to work on these chemicals to make fatigue better.  You can find out more about that on the Cancer Research UK website called Research into Cancer Fatigue.

To find other people going through the same thing as you, visit the Macmillan “Online Community” webpage and type “Fatigue” into the search box on the right hand side, that will find all the most recent blog posts and forum messages that contain the word fatigue.

I can’t find any specific resources or courses on cancer fatigue in Aberdeen City or Aberdeenshire but if you do know of any please let me know by leaving a comment below. The Pain Association Scotland, do run courses in Aberdeen, more information is on the “Events” section of their webpage.

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