There are a number of side effects that lung cancer patients have to face, including nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. Fatigue is one that is harder to combat because it can affect every aspect of your life. For many people it is hard to function and do basic activities like dressing, cleaning, and eating. The good news is that there are a few things that a lung cancer patient can do get more energy and fight fatigue.
- Be as active as possible. Physical activity can give your body much needed energy. Start by taking a 10-minute walk around the block and move up from there. Yoga is also a good option to promote movement and boost energy. If you are increasing your activity, make sure you are staying hydrated during these summer months. It is also important to discuss any new physical activities with your healthcare team.
- Don’t overdo it. While it is important to increase your activity to combat fatigue, try not to push it too hard and overdo it. Doing too much too fast could make the fatigue worse and sideline you for longer. If there are days that the fatigue is more pronounced, listen to your body and rest when you need to.
- Eat often throughout the day. The more often you eat, the more energy your body gets. Each time you eat, the food you eat becomes energy for your body to use. The goal is to eat every two hours to make sure you are getting enough calories to prevent weight loss. If you don’t eat often during the day, your body will not have as much energy to be able to function normally.
- Take advantage of good days and times. While on lung cancer treatment, some days will be better than others. The key is to use your good days to get things done. Those are good days to make freezer meals, grocery shop, or plan your eating schedule. Remember to plan to take breaks regularly to sit down and rest, even on good days.
- Ask for help. Family and friends want to help, so take advantage of that. Bringing a meal, running an errand, or cleaning your house can take the stress off you when you are feeling most fatigued. These small acts of kindness can go a long way for you if you are having a hard time performing daily tasks.
- Increase your fluids. Drinking more hydrating fluids can help improve your energy levels. Water, herbal tea, and 100% fruit juice are great options to improve your hydration status and boost your energy. Aim to drink fluids in between meals so you do not fill up on fluids during your meals.
- Keep easy-to-prepare snacks on hand. Cottage cheese, nuts, peanut butter crackers, and yogurt are examples of healthy and easy snacks to keep in your refrigerator or pantry. It is also a good idea to keep meals in the freezer for those days when cooking seems impossible. This will prevent further fatigue, but also help to improve your nutritional status. It may also be helpful to keep these snacks at the bedside for easy access if you are in bed much of the day.
- Choose soft foods if chewing is tiring. Choose foods that are easy to chew and easy to swallow so you do not get tired out when you are eating. Oatmeal, cream soups, and well-cooked beans are good meal additions. In addition, smoothies, pre-made nutritional drinks, and milkshakes can help supplement your daily calorie and protein intake.
- Focus on calorie-dense foods. When your energy level is low, it may be hard to prepare meals and get enough calories to prevent weight loss. Keep high-calorie foods readily available so you can maximize your calorie intake at every meal. Avocados, nuts, eggs, olives, potatoes, and cheese are good staples to have on hand to easily include with meals. Adding calorie boosters, such as olive oil and salad dressings, is another way to add calories onto the foods you are already eating.
Fatigue from lung cancer treatments can be a debilitating and frustrating experience for lung cancer patients. The good news is that there are many things that you can do to help. Take advantage of good days and allow friends and family to help remove the some of your burden. Stocking up on the right foods can prevent the stress of shopping and preparing meals. The most important thing to remember is to take it one day at a time and not get overwhelmed with your lack of energy and productivity. Tomorrow is a new day!