“My survival alone was a miracle.” Diagnosed in 2002 with a life threatening head and neck cancer, Liam Ryan’s doctors told him he should have never survived.…
Barbara Tako is a 54-year-old survivor in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area. She is an eight-year breast cancer survivor and a four-year melanoma survivor. Barbara is the author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We’ll get you through this, a book designed to help fellow cancer survivors cope with the emotional aspects of a cancer diagnosis. Barbara is also a cancer writer for CureToday.com.
Throughout treatment and beyond, I talked to my doctors about my fatigue. It felt like they were sympathetic but that they did not have a lot of options for me—especially after they did exams and blood work to rule out other possible causes for my fatigue. Still, some days I am tired, and frankly, I am sometimes just sick of it.
I am glad that cancer-related fatigue is now being acknowledged and studied. Recently, I was introduced to the Untire app that was developed to specifically help cancer fatigue patients. I am grateful that I now have this tool on my phone. Untire recognizes that each cancer survivor is unique and I like that it understands that each cancer patient or survivor has good days and bad days.
In writing my book Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We’ll get you through this, I shared my experience and emotional coping strategies with fellow cancer survivors. I struggled with the emotional side of the cancer diagnosis. I journaled and I researched. I spoke with many oncology professionals. I remember a fellow survivor telling me that she was surprised I even had the energy to write my book during and after my active cancer treatment. Sadly, many do not know that cancer fatigue can last months and even years. I used to wonder, after chemotherapy, radiation, and prior surgeries, if there was something wrong with me. Was it me? Was I just being a wimp? No. Turns out I am not alone. Untire is a new tool that is now available to help all cancer patients and survivors dealing with fatigue.
Do I still struggle with fatigue eight years out? Absolutely. I’ve been fighting it lately as I currently recover from my prophylactic double mastectomy with reconstruction. Eight years after my lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and oophorectomy, I learned that I have the PALB2 breast cancer genetic abnormality. I made the decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy with reconstruction, and I am still in the process of realizing how big a surgery it was for me. It knocked me for a loop and had a major impact on my energy level. I am so very grateful that researchers and doctors are now taking the fatigue seriously.
A few years ago, my husband and I helped our daughter renovate her recently purchased condominium. As I pushed myself, I worked hard for hours at a time. During that process, I needed naps and I slept well but the activity was actually good for me!
Still, there are times I need to be gentle with myself. I take naps, breaks when I need them, and I get as much sleep as I can at night. I try to fit in exercise and make healthy eating choices too. Untire is a mobile app that has been able to help me do just that. My emotional coping tool bag now includes meditating, focusing on the outdoors (even if it is through a window), and distraction (for me, that is an engaging show or a good book). I make an effort to pull myself forward most days.
Do you have fatigue or struggle with the worries and fears of cancer too? The Untire program even provides support beyond the app. I was able to join a private online community of Untire users where we are free to post our story and fatigue experience. Remember, you’re not alone in this cancer fatigue battle. I believe we can share what works for each of us and help each other fight through our cancer survivorship together.
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