Cancer-related fatigue is described as having a lack of energy and/or whole body tiredness which is not relieved by sleep. It is a profound inertia usually accompanied by low spirits. Chief among the reasons for this condition are the chemo drugs themselves causing low blood counts and in the case of advanced disease, tumour cells competing for vital nutrients. Other causes include radiation, decreased nutrition from other limiting side-effects such as nausea and mouth sores, medications, stress and depression. As well, steriods such as Decadron (dexamethasone) - which are drugs commonly prescribed with chemo - can cause a temporary "high" and then a crash – or a very low feeling - for several days after.
Identifying the cause(s) of fatigue is the first step in its treatment. As low blood counts are a very common cause of cancer-related fatigue, understanding the chemo drug cycle – the nadir or low point – helps you cope with your condition. Often drugs are given in between chemo treatments to boost bone marrow production and speed up the blood count recovery. Anti-depressants are sometimes required as is psychological counselling.
It is important to schedule a visit with a cancer nutritionist before or during your treatments to ensure that the optimum calorie counts are achieved with the right balance of protein which is a critical element in combating fatigue.
Cancer fatigue is a very real thing. It is debilitating and frustrating. I know it’s counter intuitive (when all you really want to do is to lie in bed or veg in front of the TV) but pushing yourself to go for a walk, practice a little yoga or other form of light exercise is extremely helpful.
Your body cannot fight without the necessary fuel. An oncological nutritionist is skilled in helping you balance your caloric intake. I strongly suggest that you visit your family doctor or naturopathic doctor for a complete physical workup to identify vitamin, mineral and other deficiencies or toxicities.
Lastly, prioritizing daily tasks, reaching out to family and friends is, for some, a very difficult thing to do. You need time to heal and asking for help is a gift you give to others.
We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.