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Fatigue

Ways to boost your energy and manage extreme tiredness

What you need to know

Whether you’re living with or after leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma or any other blood cancer:

  1. You’re not alone – Fatigue is a common symptom of blood cancer and side effect of treatment.
  2. It’s more than just tiredness – It can affect you mentally and physically, and can hit even when you’re well-rested.
  3. There are things that can help – Balancing being active with rest can help reduce fatigue.
Gerard, living with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, playing golf

Gerard's story

My strategies for dealing with fatigue

Gerard's story

What causes fatigue?

Fatigue is when you’re totally drained in body or mind. Fatigue can hit even when you’ve rested or slept well. It’s a normal and common side effect for people with blood cancer. Lots of things can play a role in fatigue – the cancer itself, current or past treatment, medications, stress or depression. Tell your healthcare team as they may be able to help.

Erica, living with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, out for a walk

Erica's story

Fatigue won't stop me enjoying life

Erica's story

What can I do?

There are things you can do to manage fatigue. All the tips here have come from people with blood cancer.

  • Balance – You need both rest and activity to fight fatigue. It may sound strange, but being more active actually reduces tiredness.
  • It’s ok to ask for help – What could you delegate? Could any friends or family help? You can also contact social services for an assessment to see if you could get help at home.
  • If you’re working, think about what changes would help you – and be open with your boss if you can. If you need help explaining things, our fact sheet 'If your employee of colleague has blood cancer' (see below) may help.
  • Plan your journeys – Can you avoid rush hour when travelling or factor in breaks? Finding the best time could mean getting a seat on the train or avoiding stressful traffic jams.
  • Learn what’s doable for you – Keep track of how you feel each day and week. You could use a fatigue diary or app. Tell friends and family what works for you and plan rest in between activities.
  • Be kind to yourself – You’re not being lazy. You don’t have to be grateful and positive all the time. If you need a rest day or you need to cancel something, do it – because looking after yourself is a priority.
  • Take care of yourself – Living with fatigue can make you feel down. Feeling depressed or anxious can also cause fatigue. Find out more about getting support for your mind and emotions.
Carina, in remission from hairy cell leukaemia, socialising

Carina's story

Three things I've changed to manage fatigue

Carina's story

Movement and activity helps

It’s been proven that being active helps to reduce fatigue. But you don’t have to go to the gym to exercise. Things like walking, housework, gardening or washing the car all count. Find out what’s helped others living with or after blood cancer to keep active.

Emma, 32, was diagnosed with a myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), in 2011. She has had four rounds of treatment, including two stem cell transplants and chemotherapy, but is currently in remission.

Emma P's story

How I cope with mental fatigue

Emma P's story

I pick the grandkids up. I jet wash the car. Keeping active helps in some way.

- Edward, 58

Watch our short videos on staying active with and after blood cancer. These videos have been designed to help you build up strength and fitness, even if you haven’t been active for a while.

Tools and support

Tell your medical team or GP about your fatigue. They should refer you to an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, who can show you ways to pace yourself and maximise energy levels.

Try the free Untire app. It’s approved by the NHS and is designed to help with cancer-related fatigue.

RESTORE is an online resource from Macmillan Cancer Support that helps you plan and set simple goals to manage your fatigue.

Janssen-Cilag Ltd has supported Blood Cancer UK with funding for the production of this web page and others within the ‘Living well’ section. It had no influence over the content.

Jacqueline, in remission from DLBCL, out walking with a friend

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