Fatigue and Cancer – How Long Is This Chemo Fatigue Going To Last?
Updated August 1, 2019
People who are going through chemotherapy are generally focused on one thing: making it THROUGH the treatments. Once the treatments have ended, however, the next question becomes “How long is this chemo related fatigue going to last?”
They are ready to move on with their lives but feel that the fatigue is holding them back. I know I certainly felt like that when I was finished with 6 months of chemotherapy treatments.
Is It Fatigue or Depression?
One thing I like to suggest is keeping a diary for one week to identify the time of day when you are either most fatigued or have the most energy. Note what you think may be contributing factors. You might be surprised. Some have found that they feel fatigued after thinking about something that depresses them.
Depression often masks itself as fatigue. If you think that it’s depression with which you might be dealing, please see a qualified therapist. And don’t be embarrassed about it – you have been through hell – all the way through from diagnosis to all those chemicals that were pumped into your system. Depression is NOT unusual after all of that.
If you feel pretty sure that it’s just chemo related fatigue, however, read on.
How Long Is This Chemo Fatigue Going to Last?
The standard answer from most oncologists is that “it is not unreasonable that fatigue continues for months, if not for a year or year and a half” after the finish of chemotherapy .
The real answer depends on how you take care of yourself. I’ve known women who were still suffering from fatigue FIVE years later – but I noticed they weren’t very proactive with their health either.
There are quite a few things you can do for yourself that will reduce the length of time that you are feeling the effects of chemo-related fatigue. Here are my top 6:
- Exercise – Do you spend time exercising each day? At least 30 minutes per day doing some sort of weight-bearing exercise, walking, or yoga are highly recommended by most doctors. One study also showed that the combination of 30 minutes of exercise combined with a good plant-based diet and a good support network improved the survival of breast cancer patients by as much as 68%. So there are plenty of good reasons to push through the fatigue and get exercising. I joined a gym after finishing chemotherapy, partly because I was part of a study being done by an exercise physiologist who was studying the effects of exercise on women who had been through treatments for breast cancer. But also, I was aware of the good effects on the body that exercise has – it’s crucial to the good function of your entire nervous system, immune system, and it has been proven to reduce your risk of getting cancer again. It also has some good psychological benefits, feelings of depression are definitely eased after exercising. Drink plenty of water during your day too to help flush out accumulated toxins (and drinks containing caffeine DO NOT count because they pull fluid out of the body).
- Good Nutrition – Eating well may have been difficult when you were going through chemotherapy, but now that you’ve finished, this is a really good time to start rebuilding yourself with some excellent nutrients. See my page Diet and Cancer for recommendations on the best things to eat. Juicing is an excellent thing to do for yourself for a variety of reasons. See my article The 12 Best Benefits of Juicing For Breast Cancer.
- Take Some Supplements – There are a number of things which will help you to rebuild your immune system – and your energy levels. For a list of my favorites, go to Marnie’s Must-Have Supplements for Breast Health. You don’t need all of these, just pick and choose the ones that make the most sense to you – or work with a naturopath or breast cancer coach to help you choose the best ones for you.
- Massage and Bodywork – Massage and bodywork can be very helpful to relieve post-chemo fatigue. My own experience was that it also helped with those feelings of abandonment. Many feel that they’ve been so incredibly busy and focused on their treatments that once they are done and left on their own to resume a “normal” life, they feel like they’ve fallen off a cliff. Massage and bodywork help not only with the fatigue, but also with those “over the cliff” feelings. Please be aware, however, that if you have had a number of lymph nodes removed, or if you have bone metastases, you will want to consult a massage therapist who has special training – an oncology massage therapist will know exactly what to do. If you are considered “cancer free” (delightful words!) by your doctors, however, just ensure that your massage therapist is either licensed or certified. Skilled touch is so beneficial at nearly every stage of the cancer experience.
- Get Plenty of Rest – It really helps to take little 20 minute “power naps” to recharge your energy both during and after chemotherapy. It really helped me a lot and I didn’t feel one bit guilty. If you can, balance periods of rest and work. I also found it helped to work at a moderate pace than rushing through activities.
- Detoxify – If you have been through the gamut of chemotherapy and/or radiation, it really helps to do some cleansing. Work with a qualified naturopath or other health professional to get you started in the right direction.
I hope those suggestions help your energy levels!
 Tish Knobf, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., A.O.C.N – http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/fatigue/ask_expert/2008_01/).
I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.