Fatigue vs. Tired

In the cancer world, people aren’t just tired, they are filled with fatigue. Being tired implies you feel rested after a nap or a good night’s sleep. Fatigue is tougher because there is no feeling of renewal. Instead, many of us force ourselves to push through the fatigue cycle each day.

I could understand the fatigue while going through my chemo treatments. It’s a grueling schedule where my sole focus was to do everything I could to not let this cancer kill me. That stress, on top of working full-time, nearly landed me in the hospital many times. I remember after my second treatment of the Adriamycin (also known as Red Devil) and Cytoxan), I got so dehydrated from nausea and dry heaving that I called the emergency number for the cancer center super early one morning, went in for an IV of fluids that took three hours to infuse through the port in my chest and then went to work.

The fatigue and side effects from my 16 rounds of chemo pushed me over the edge. I could no longer drive and was using a cane to walk. My legs were so weak and I suffered terrible dizziness. I would actually fall down a lot and/or fall into things. When that started happening at work, I knew I had to finally take that short-term leave of absence without pay because due to a technicality, I was not eligible for short-term disability through the type of insurance the company provided. People always ask me why I worked during all my active treatment. It’s called being single, underpaid and having no choice because someone had to pay just the regular bills on top of the medical ones.

I naively thought that feeling of trudging through mud each day would end after chemo and my surgeries were over. I thought radiation would be a piece of cake. My medical team kept telling me my body should tolerate radiation much better. I so desperately wanted to believe them.

For me, there was a major difference between chemo fatigue, working full-time fatigue, surgery fatigue and then radiation fatigue. I took eight weeks off (five were unpaid) after my surgeries to heal from that and try to heal from chemo. I started radiation on May 16, 2016 and ended on July 1, 2016, two days before my 40th birthday.

Much to my surprise, I found the radiation schedule and side effects to be just as grueling as chemo.  I had to get 33 radiation treatments once my plastic surgeon released me to do so. Since I had a lumpectomy and due to the size of my tumor, radiation was needed to kill any remaining microscopic cancer cells. The treatment itself was barely five minutes long. Here was my daily schedule:

Arrived to radiology by 8:30am every single day

Changed into my radiation gown (received a beautiful silk gown to wear to each appointment)

Wait for my name to be called

Get positioned on the radiation table (it took longer to position me just right than the actual treatment)

Then time for the radiation beams. I never felt a thing.

Talk with the nurses about any issues. I will talk about the horrible burns in a different post.

Go to back to the dressing room and lather my left boob with aquafor cream to help protect from burning and change into my clothes. Again, there will be more on that in a different post.

Walk back to my car and drive to work

Repeat for 33 days straight except for holidays and the two days they gave me off because of my burns and state of mind. That’s a lot of fatigue on top of fatigue. I was already fatigued by the time I got to work and still had a full day ahead of me.

Cancer treatment, active and post, is a beast. I have not bounced back like many other warriors I know. I’m still in a constant state of fatigue and my quality of life is about 30%. My energy comes and quickly goes. This is my reality. I don’t know if I will ever have true energy again.

That’s life on the cancer train…the unknown…

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

5 thoughts on “Fatigue vs. Tired

  1. Great distinction between ‘tired’ and ‘fatigue’, Megsie…thetsngoing to be my go-to explanation now, when someone minimizes my wistful observation that I’m still so tired: one is mitigated by restorative sleep, the other, unaltered and without end. They will have nothing to say to that, I bet.

    If it’s any insight at all, October I met the three year mark from end of treatment. Only in the last few months was there a qualifiable shift in this fatigue. My ‘tired’ bouts waxed and waned throughout, and still hit me regularly, but that overarching fatigue, very recently, backed off by thirty per cent. That’s progress in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree there is a difference where I was able to push through that barrier I am less willing to as I know what could lay behind excess. My concentration level had deteriorated as well. God bless u keep smiling xx


  3. Will pass this along to my patients going through fatigue from chemo and radiation…let’s them know what they are feeling is real and why they can’t seem to get rested! Thank you 🙏👍


  4. I had stage 3 breast cancer, metasasized, and inoperative Nov. 2010. After chemo….Drs decided tumor may have shrunk from 5X10, by 30%, so decided to do complete mastectomy. The tumor had not shrunk….after radiation treatments…..from which all of these treatments left me too, exhausted. But here it is 2017 and I am cured. It really is worth all you are going through. It WILL get better. Only God can carry you through. MD Anderson staff helped keep me encouraged. At my lowest….my PT, Kathryn Boynton, picked me up and gave me a shoulder. Thank God for her and my family. Keep the faith and you will win.


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