- Question from Myra: It's two and a half months since I finished chemo. I try to go for a walk every day and I have joined a gym and try to go twice a week, but I'm still very tired. My daughters and my grandchildren want me to visit them and I want to go too, and both mean travel of 4 or 5 hours, I don't want to be too tired to take part in everything. Any suggestions?
Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., FAACP
I think that the fatigue that goes with chemotherapy often persists for many months after treatment. It's wonderful that you want to visit and participate in things, but it's also important to take care of yourself and acknowledge that the fatigue is very real. With fatigue it's not a question of giving into it, as it is of accepting it and finding ways to be with your family despite the lingering fatigue.
The effects of treatment are temporary and you will regain your energy. But while you're fatigued, it's best to pace yourself and also choose activities that will be good for everyone. In planning travel, you want to allow times to rest and take a break. When you arrive, it's fine to let people know that you are tired, and allow them to help and offer support in any way they can. This is one time you can really allow yourself to relax and be a "guest" and know that people really will understand.
Don't put yourself under undue pressure to do all the things that you will be doing again when you're feeling better. There are lots of ways to enjoy grandchildren and family even when you don't have a lot of energy. For example, reading a book together with a young child. If you're too tired to read to them, they're usually delighted to read to you. Another idea is seeing a movie or video, sitting in the shade, and doing things together that don't require a lot of energy.
What I think children and family value are the times spent together, and that is more important than the particular things you do. It is so important for your family, children, and grandchildren just to have you in their presence instead of having to wonder what you're doing. Even if you can't participate, your presence can sometimes be the greatest participation you can give your family where they can share what they're doing with you. It's all about conditioning and listening to your body, resting when you need to, and slowly taking small steps until you can take much larger steps. Hopefully, you'll be looking towards that normalcy in a fairly short time.
Reassure children that the fatigue is due to the special medicine you're taking to get well, so they don't get frightened and think that you are sicker.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Summertime Issues: Treatment and Personal Care featured Maria Theodoulou, M.D., Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about the various summertime issues that relate to breast cancer treatment and personal care.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in June 2005.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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