How to Overcome Fatigue during Mesothelioma Treatment
Fatigue is a common symptom of cancer, and it’s often made worse by cancer treatment. Extreme exhaustion can alarm patients and their caregivers, but fatigue is normal during cancer treatment, and there are ways to cope and recover.
Fatigue isn’t just feeling tired; it can make people feel like they have little to no energy to do simple things like walking, eating and maintaining hygiene.
Certain cancer treatments can cause more fatigue than others. For example, an aggressive surgery for mesothelioma cancer called an EPP (extrapleural pneumonectomy) removes one lung, its lining, parts of diaphragm and other tissues in the chest cavity. The surgery is so extensive that it renders patients extremely fatigued for weeks and sometimes months.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can also lead to fatigue. Certain types of radiation therapy may cause more fatigue than others, especially if higher doses of radiation are used. And some chemotherapy drugs cause extreme fatigue while others only mild fatigue.
Thankfully, there are lifestyle modifications that can help people coping with fatigue, particularly energy-management techniques and eating a nutritional diet.
Manage Energy Wisely
Most people with mesothelioma cancer cope with significant fatigue after cancer treatment, especially people who are older or have other health conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
Learning to manage energy throughout the day and week can help cancer patients live better while coping with fatigue. Try the following tips to cope better with fatigue:
· Tracking energy levels in a journal can help you determine when you have the most energy throughout the day and in the days following treatments like chemotherapy.
· Figure out the times of day when you have the most energy and plan what you’d like to do during these times.
· Commit to resting or napping regularly rather than waiting until you feel tired — it may improve your energy level overall.
· Prioritize the things you want to do and do your favorites first.
· Reach out for help with house chores, errands and meal preparation. Doing all this yourself will zap your energy.
· Don’t overdo it on days when you feel good, because this could lead to extreme fatigue later.
Eat Well to Live Well
Eating a balanced diet that’s rich in protein, vegetables, fruit and whole grains will help cancer patients feel better and recover quicker from cancer treatment. Most importantly, people with cancer should consume plenty of protein and calories to maintain weight and energy.
Eating adequate amounts of protein helps the body heal and repair. Make sure to consume protein at every meal and snack. Try the following tips to add protein to your diet:
· Eggs for breakfast will start your day off with protein. Add cheese and diced ham or turkey to omelets for extra protein.
· Top salads with chopped deli meat, cheese, beans or nuts.
· Stir in cheese, cream or cooked meats into soups.
· Snack on protein-rich foods like nuts, eggs, nut butters, sliced cheese and deli meats.
· Add peanut butter, yogurt, milk or ice cream to shakes and smoothies.
Consuming enough calories can be challenging for cancer patients going through treatment. Surgery can make people feel weak and too tired to eat. Chemotherapy can cause mouth sores, nausea and vomiting, making it difficult for people to eat and maintain nutrition. Try the following tips to add calories to your diet:
· Use plenty of butter and oil when cooking.
· Choose whole-fat foods and skip anything reduced or low-fat.
· Add cream to coffee and tea.
· Mix vegetables into cheesy, creamy sauces.
· Dress salads with high-calorie vinaigrettes or dressings.
Eating well during and after cancer takes effort and support, but the sustained nutrition will help maintain energy levels. Additionally, maintaining weight is associated with improved life expectancy among mesothelioma patients.
Fatigue can make people with cancer feel defeated and hopeless, but with enough support, energy management and proper nutrition, cancer patients can cope and live well in spite of fatigue.
Cancer Research UK. (2014, March 6). Treating cancer fatigue. Retrieved from http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping-with-cancer/coping-physically/fatigue/treating-cancer-fatigue
Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Food pyramids and plates: What should you really eat? Retrieved from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/pyramid-full-story/
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