From the Ovacome Magazine winter 2019

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With more than 80% of people diagnosed with cancer suffering from fatigue it is important to have strategies in place to counteract this intense tiredness which affects work, relationships and wellbeing.

So says Lizzie Jones, a specialist oncology occupational therapist at Imperial College who stresses that while cancer-related fatigue is a “huge issue”, its effects can be reduced with what Macmillan calls the three Ps - pacing, planning and prioritising.

“Fatigue can make it difficult to concentrate, interact with others and remember things. It all adds up to a rather distressing feeling of being out of control,” says Lizzie.

The severity will depend on treatment, the stresses in individuals lives and how they cope with their new situation, says Lizzie. “It can last for a day or so post treatment to being a forever thing even in remission.”

Although it appears counter intuitive, incorporating exercise into your daily routine has a big role to play in beating fatigue, says Lizzie. “This could be with chores like ironing and gardening, or getting off the bus a stop before or after you need to. Don’t think that exercise just means working out,” she says.

Teaming up with others for physical activity can be motivational, and tends to have quicker outcomes in achieving fitness and relaxation, says, Lizzie, who suggests investigating what classes local Maggie’s centres offer.

Other strategies include:

  • Not being tempted to nap. If you are tired, go for a five
    minute walk or try a gentle seated exercise instead.
  • Generally you will need between seven to nine hours
    sleep per night, but this is dependent on how long you
    needed pre-cancer, says Lizzie.
  • Turn your mobile phone off 45 minutes to an hour
    before going to bed.
  • Try not to consume caffeine after lunch.
  • Use relaxation techniques, aromatherapy candles and
    scent sticks.
  • Take a notepad to bed to write down your thoughts if
    you wake up early and listen to music for relaxation.
  • The Macmillan website has lots of useful information,
    including a ‘Coping with Fatigue’ and ‘Physical Activity
    and Cancer’ booklet.

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Download Lizzie's presentation from our Health and Wellbeing Day:

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Download presentation

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