Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Side Effects: Fatigue

My readers may have noticed that I've haven't posted as frequently this past month and there's a reason for it.


Gone are the days I could carry a backpack containing my laptop and several heavy textbooks all around like it was nothing.

Gone are the days I could carry an avarage-sized purse around.

Gone are the days I could live off four hours of sleep—multiple days in a row— and somehow still function each day.

Gone are the days I could... zzzzzz... Whoa. Sorry. Dozed off. What was I talking about?

I replaced my normal purse with a teensy purse and carry the absolute bare essentials inside it. It probably weighs less than a pound. Even so, I often ask my mom or sisters to carry my mini purse for me.

Some days it's a chore walking from my bedroom to the living room.

Carrying a gallon of milk from the fridge to the counter three feet away is taxing.

I'm too tired to research pictures to embellish this post.

One day, I woke up, took a ten-minute shower, and immediately went bad to bed for the first of several naps.

Don't get me started on doing the dishes. I replaced my ceramic plates and metal silverware with paper and plastic, respectively. Sorry environment. You'll have to wait until chemo is done.

My fatigue is worst the day of and the days immediately following a chemo infusion. It's sinking to the bottom of a pit and slowly climbing back to the top over the next two weeks, only to be knocked down again at the next chemo treatment. Kind of like if Sleeping Beauty and Sisyphus had a child together.

During chemo round #6, I slept an average of 60–70% of my days (that includes the days I slept up to 90%). Did not want to get out of bed. Nope. Not happening. Of course, there were other factors involved (such as a crazy menstrual cycle, which I have discussed in a different post).

And because side effect management often begets other side effects:

Sleeping so much during the day throws my sleep cycle off course and I can't fall asleep at night. Grrr! Arg!

Except when I'm really tired, nothing can keep me from snuggling under the comfort of my blankets and dozing away to a delightful dream-free land (because dreaming also takes too much energy these days).

My Solutions

I keep things as easy as possible for myself. I've taken a medical leave of absence from work, which creates other problems, but overall has been a blessing.

Some chemo articles recommend staying awake as much as possible during the day to avoid problems falling asleep at night. I just say whatever and sleep whenever my body wants. I also sleep wherever: bed, sofa, floor, resting my head on the kitchen table and huh, where did that hour go?

I reserve my minute stamina for the activities most important to me and say no to anything outside my energy zone. My family often invites me to various events and most of the time I have to say no. I wanted to go on that three-day family getaway to Santa Cruz, I really did. The vacation even coincided with my good days. Ultimately, I did not want to risk overexerting myself, and the option of staying in the hotel during my sleepy spells did not seem appealing. I prefer the comfort of my own home.

Speaking of good days—usually the three or four days prior to chemo—I always take full advantage of them. I do laundry, tidy my room, go grocery shopping. Whatever I need. I get out of the house when I feel up to it, although I stay as local as possible. I've also gone swimming in my backyard pool a couple times. I cherish the few precious good days.

On the worn out days, I ask people for help whether it be driving me to a store, keeping me company, or making me a sandwich. This burden mostly falls to my family. I could not get through any of this without their support!

Further Reading

CancerCare: Fatigue and Cancer Fatigue Fatigue 

Every person is different and their experiences will differ from mine. Always discuss your particular symptoms and concerns with your doctor.

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