Copyright Pamela Robbins. All rights reserved.
While doing some reading on the subject of life after cancer treatments, I came across the quote-"Breast Cancer survivorship is a marathon-not a sprint." I am finding that statement to be very accurate. Some of those troublesome symptoms and side effects that I experienced during chemo and radiation are hanging around, even though my treatments have ended.
Two of the most troublesome issues for me right now are the sudden onsets of fatigue and the everpresent chemo brain.
Although I was warned that some of the side effects would probably linger for some time after treatment, I guess that somehow I thought I might be one of those people who bounced back right away-sidestepping those problems! Yeah, just like I thought I would be one of those people who was able to continue running and exercising right through all of the chemo treatments!
Unfortunately, rest or sleep does not cure the type of fatigue that lingers after cancer treatments. While researching this subject, I read that doctors don't know the exact cause for this lingering fatigue.
I have compiled a list of some things that I have found helpful in dealing with fatigue. These things won't cure the fatigue, but they do seem to help lessen the severity of the problem.
Coping With Fatigue
Plan your day. Try to be active at the time of day when you usually feel most energetic. Personally, I find that I have more energy to get in my walk or other exercises around 9 am, so I go for it! I also tend to get a little burst of power in the late afternoon, and that's when I try to do some house cleaning or other chores. Do what works for you.
Choose how to spend the energy that you have available. Try to let go of things that don't matter as much right now. Try to focus on doing the things that make you happy, more often than the stuff you used to find much more important. I have realized that having a spotless house at all times is not a necessity and it's probably not something to stress over!
Let others help. Let family members help with chores, errands, laundry, etc. I found myself struggling with letting my family help after finishing my treatments because I felt that they had done so much during my chemo treatments, surgery, and radiation. I felt guilty letting them continue because I thought that it was MY time to take over the reigns again! I have now realized that I do still need a bit more help than before cancer and I am trying my best to let go of the guilt!
Take short naps when possible. If a nap isn't possible, at least try to take 10 minutes to put your feet up and relax a bit.
Join a support group. Talking to others who have had the same problem can often help find new ways to cope.
There are some other things to consider, such as relaxation exercises, vitamins or nutritional supplements, or essential oils which have helped me quite a bit.
Research shows that one in four people with cancer reports memory and attention problems after chemo. These effects can begin during treatment, or they may not appear until later. Sometimes they don't go away.
Some people refer to this problem as "brain fog" because you have problems paying attention, finding the right words to describe things, or remembering things. Whether you call it "chemo brain" or "brain fog"......it SUCKS! While I don't know of any way to cure this problem, I do know some ideas to help improve the situation.
Coping With Chemo Brain
Write it down. Keep a notebook or calendar and write down each task. Plan your day, but keep it simple.
Set up reminders. Put post-it notes around the house to remind yourself of things that need to be done. You can even use your phone to set up alerts for jobs that need to be done at a particular time of day.
Manage stress. Managing stress better can improve your memory and attention span. Learn different ways to relax. This can help you remain calm in stressful moments.
Repeat things you want to remember. Saying things a couple of times can help your mind hold the information.
I try not to let "chemo brain" stress me out more than I already am, but it can be difficult at times. I just try to remind myself how very lucky (or blessed) I am to be in remission at the moment and not worry too much about my lack of focus or memory issues. I'm alive, and it's ALL GOOD!! Wait-what was I saying????!!!