Treatment with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy can cause fatigue or “the blahs”, or feeling general weakness, energy depletion and exhaustion. You might lack the motivation to carry on, or feel “just plain tired.” There are various causes for fatigue. Some causes may include: 

  • Anemia. Cancer treatment can reduce the number of circulating red blood cells that carry oxygen to other cells in the body.
  • Insufficient nutritional intake. Even though you are eating, if your intake is largely sugary foods or carbohydrates, you may be depleted of essential nutrients. 
  • Excess metabolic waste products due to cell metabolism resulting from your treatment. Hydration can help eliminate these waste products. 
  • Insufficient sleep or rest. Some medicines that are used to control other symptoms may cause wakefulness. 
  • Chronic pain
  • Stress
  • Depression

Realize that fatigue is to be expected with chemotherapy/radiation therapy. It is not a sign that your illness is worsening or treatment is not working. When your treatment is completed, your energy will return over the following weeks. Be sure to remember to do one special thing that you enjoy each day. This is important so you have something special to look forward to on any given day. 

Some tips to help relieve fatigue

  • Conserve energy. Be sure to rest when you are tired. Listen to your body, Do the things you want to when your body is at its highest energy level. 
  • Avoid doing too much too soon. Plan for gradually increasing activities. A few small walks or activities performed over the course of the day will help maintain and build strength and preserve muscle mass. Resting all day and then taking one long walk or doing a big chore may use all of your energy reserves. Longer periods of rest alternating with short periods of activity will help to maintain energy. 
  • Recognize when fatigue is the greatest and accept help at those times. Family and friends want to help, but need direction from you about how, whether it is with childcare, housework, yard work, errands or driving. 
  • Eat well! Small frequent meals with nutrient dense foods and protein will help rebuild tissues. 

Work with your doctor to control pain and other distressing physical symptoms.