Wednesday, October 12, 2011
This is a common refrain among cancer survivors, and very common for breast cancer survivors. One of my friends from the Noble Circle group had breast cancer in 1998 with recurrences soon thereafter. She still complains of being exhausted and having to take naps.
The sad thing is that just as common as the complaint of extreme fatigue is the reaction of the doctors that "it's all in your head." I'm pleased that the study I took part in two weeks ago is actually trying to study some of the post treatment effects and is listening to survivors and comparing to women who have never had cancer.
Several things come into play here, I think. Now mind you, I'm not a doctor, nor do I have medical training, but I have been observing this for a while and I do know about quite a few of the side effects. I know that currently my problem is that I want things to go back to normal, like yesterday. The reality is that it takes about a full year for all the drugs to leave your system and for things to settle down. In addition to this, while on treatment we tend not to be physically active. In order for our bodies to work well, we need to exercise even if we hate it. Physical activity which raises our heart rate, or even the slow and steady kind like going for an hour's walk daily, helps us in getting good quality of sleep as well as keeping us physically fit and active which drives away the fatigue.
Fatigue can also be associated with depression which commonly hits survivors. It can also be a sign of other problems, such as heart issues which may be a result of your treatment or it might have been an underlying problem which has now been brought to the fore. If you are suffering from fatigue, please go and get evaluated. It might be something which can be taken care of if you look at it from different angles.
Of course, they also say that each course (meaning the full round of treatment) can age your body by 10 years...since I've done three courses (1994, 1998 2010/11) then I guess I've lost 30 years and am now the equivalent of an 80 year old. Hmm. No wonder I feel tired!
If a doctor tells you "it's all in your head." See another doctor if you can. Remember, they used to think that Epstein-Barre syndrome was "all in your head" and now they recognize it and understand that there are several causes for it.
Also...don't forget...sometimes a cigar is a cigar...you just might be tired!