Treatment fatigue is a very common problem among lymphoma patients. Whether the patient is doing pharmaceutical treatments, chemotherapy, or other treatments, they will likely lead to fatigue and a feeling of being burnt out.
This article will go over what treatment fatigue is, symptoms that are commonly associated with it, and things that can help patients move past it.
What is treatment-related fatigue?
Treatment-related fatigue is excessive and persistent exhaustion that is caused by a combination of a severe disease and the physically demanding treatments that are done during the recovery process. This is no ordinary fatigue, as it does not go away with a good night's sleep and can greatly interfere with patients’ day to day lives.
What are symptoms of treatment fatigue?
It is important to recognize symptoms that may accompany treatment fatigue. Here are some common symptoms that could point to patients having treatment fatigue:
- Difficulty climbing stairs or walking short distances
- Very shallow breathing and shortness of breath
- Sudden and unexpected changes in weight
- Intolerance to chilly temperatures
- Anemia (lack of oxygen in the blood) or low thyroid results
- Dry, flaky skin
- Hair loss
- Disturbances in regular sleep patterns
Some symptoms may be psychological rather than physical, such as:
- Mood changes, specifically stronger feelings of depression or anxiety
- Lack of motivation
- Pessimistic thoughts and feelings
- Increased and more frequent irritability
- Trouble concentrating and focusing
That may seem like a lot of symptoms, but keep in mind that not every patient experiences all of these symptoms at the same time. Since there is so much to get through, we're going to separate our tips into both physical and mental symptoms.
Dealing with the physical symptoms
Physical symptoms of fatigue can be very difficult to deal with. But there are some things you can do that will help. We will cover each symptom and what you can do to mitigate it:
Difficulty walking or climbing stairs - This is a very common symptom after treatments. Pacing yourself is the key here. Doing a bit of stretching every night can also help keep your joints loose. It may be advisable to start some kind of exercise program, but you should be sure to discuss this with your doctor to avoid overexerting yourself. (This also applies to muscle weakness).
Shortness of breath - Learning deep breathing techniques can help you with breathing issues. Learn to breathe in while pushing out your abdomen and stomach to get the most air out of your breaths. Deep breathing techniques are great for when you feel like you are struggling to breathe.
Weight change - Unexpected weight change can be a bit tricky since it often isn't due to normal factors like diet and exercise. Consult with your doctor about why this weight change may be occurring, and if there is anything you can do to stop the weight change.
Intolerance to chilly temperatures - This is a symptom that often catches patients by surprise. The best advice is to wear more layers and warmer clothing when you know you will be colder. You can also try handwarmers and heating pads, as they can raise your body temperature when put on your forehead or back of the neck.
Anemia - This is another symptom that you will need to discuss with your doctor. In some cases, a simple change in diet may help the condition. In other cases, you may need to change your medication or lower your dosage.
Dry and flaky skin - This can be a common side effect of chemotherapy treatments. There are a lot of options for skin repair, from moisturizers to topical medicines. Talk to your doctor before you use any strong topical medicine.
Hair loss - This is another common effect of chemotherapy. There are a lot of different things that cancer patients do to counteract this, whether it be the use of wigs, extensions, or other headwear. Of course, some patients choose to not worry about the hair loss. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how you deal with hair loss. You should do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. You can also talk with your doctor about alternative options.
Disturbances in sleep patterns - This is sadly par for the course with many diseases and their treatments. The best thing you can do is to encourage better sleep by making sure the room is as dark as possible, making sure there is no loud extraneous noises (unless you have a white noise machine) and that you aren't using electronics or eating anything significant an hour or so before bed.
Psychological symptoms are often neglected by patients focusing on the physical ones. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, especially when you are battling a disease like lymphoma. Here are a few tips on how you can fight some of these common psychological symptoms.
Mood changes - There are a ton of ways to improve your mood when you are feeling depressed or anxious. A balanced diet, sleep, and plenty of exercise all work wonders in reducing these negative feelings. It is also important to try and keep in touch with close friends and family. You may feel like you don't want to go to social events or similar activities, but you will likely feel better if you push yourself to go.
Lack of motivation - This can be a very hard thing to overcome. Dealing with lymphoma treatment can be very exhausting. If you are really lacking motivation and struggling beginning projects, follow the 10-minute rule. Force yourself to begin doing something, and if you feel too tired after 10 minutes then you can stop. This gets the hardest part out of the way (starting it) and most people find that after 10 minutes they are invested and able to do the work more easily. You can use this same technique for exercising, where you do fewer reps or exercises and only do more if you feel invested enough.
Pessimistic thoughts and feelings - One could certainly see why going through treatments and fighting disease could cause a rather bleak outlook. However, it is important to balance this negativity with positivity as much as possible. Try and avoid things like the news or certain social media sites that may present a lot of negative stories and posts to you. It may not seem like much but it can really add to your already pessimistic mood. Instead, find a website or TV show that has more uplifting and positive stories. You can even read about success stories of lymphoma patients to see something that hits close to home. The important thing is to find some way to inject positive emotions and thoughts in to your day to day routine.
Increased irritability - Increased irritability can make you very grumpy and cause people to avoid you for fear of upsetting you. A good way to ease irritability is to let your anger out in a physical fashion (that won't hurt you or anyone else in the process). Some good examples of this would be ripping up pieces of paper, screaming into a pillow, breaking apart sticks and twigs, or throwing darts at a dart board. All of these things will give you an outlet to let out your anger and make your irritability much more manageable.
Trouble focusing - Losing your focus can make it very hard to work or stay engaged in social situations. Meditation is a great thing you can learn in order to improve your focus. Take a few minutes every day and sit or lie down in a chair. Stay as still as possible and try to focus on your breathing and the movement of your body as you breathe. If you begin to think about something else (which you will) slowly and gently bring your mind back to focusing on your breathing. With practice you will be able to focus much more easily, and you will also likely be calmer under pressure as a result.
We hope this article helps you fight through treatment fatigue and its symptoms. For more information on lymphoma, its treatment, and its developments, be sure to check out the rest of our website.