Fatigue that comes with a cancer like multiple myeloma is different from the tiredness you may have felt before. It can be a bone-deep exhaustion that doesn’t get better when you take it easy.

The disease itself can make you weary. It can cause:

  • Anemia -- a low number of red blood cells
  • High levels of cytokines (proteins that affect your immune system) in your blood
  • Ongoing pain

The medications used to treat it can also make you tired. But there are things you can do to get the rest you need and boost your energy.

1. Keep a Journal

The first step in figuring out your fatigue is to record all the times you feel run-down. That information can help your health team figure out the best way to help you feel better. You’ll want to track:

  • Time of day when you feel the most tired
  • When you feel stressed or depressed
  • How well you’re sleeping
  • Changes in your diet
  • Changes in your daily activity level

2. Talk to Your Doctor About It

You may have heard that you should expect fatigue as a part of cancer treatment. But it’s still important to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling. They might be able to help you find ways to give yourself more energy.

3. Tell Your Loved Ones How It Affects You

Let your friends and family know how you’re feeling, too. They can help you with chores or let others know when you need time to rest. It also might help to join a support group of people with multiple myeloma who know what you’re going through. Having someone to talk to can often help you fight depression and anxiety, which can add to your fatigue.

4. Treat Anemia for Relief

When cancer cells build up in your bone marrow and begin to crowd out your healthy blood cells, you can get anemia. That means you have fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body, which makes you tired. Your health team will keep an eye on your blood cell levels throughout your treatment. If you do have it, your doctor will decide if a blood transfusion would help. They might also want you to make changes to your diet.

5. Exercise for Strength and Energy

Mild exercise can strengthen your muscles and boost your energy levels. If you didn’t exercise before you were diagnosed, you’ll want to start slow with a low-key activity like walking. Ask friends and family to join you to make it more fun. Before you start, check with your doctor about the types of activity that are OK for you.

6. Eat Healthy Food

A well-balanced diet is key for keeping your energy levels up. Try eating a few small meals throughout the day instead of three big ones. Make sure you get plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and water. If it’s hard to get enough nutrients through food, your doctor may suggest that you take a supplement.

Avoid sugary snacks and processed foods.

7. Kick Bad Habits

Say goodbye to alcohol and tobacco.

8. Prevent Infections

Multiple myeloma can lower your body’s supply of white blood cells, which protect you from infections. It might make you feel more tired, too. Try to avoid people who are sick or other things that might make you likely to get sick.

9. Ask for Help When You Need It

Ask other family members to help you with chores, like grocery shopping or cleaning. If fatigue makes it hard to work, talk to your boss or HR manager about changing or shortening your work hours. Your health is the No. 1 priority right now.

10. Get Plenty of Rest

Anxiety about cancer, pain in your bones, and nausea can keep you from sleeping well. Talk with your doctor about treatments to help. Make sure to take time each day to rest when you feel tired. Now is the time to focus on you.

You might still feel wiped out after treatment stops, but it will get better with time. Talk to your support team, and listen to your body. The key to fighting fatigue is to take it slow.

WebMD Medical Reference

WebMD Voices

Linda H., 53
Signal Mountain, TN
I work full time, so managing fatigue is something I'm always focused on. Regular exercise is the key for me. I walk at least several days a week, go to a tai chi class twice a week, and do water aerobics on Saturdays with other cancer survivors. It not only helps fight fatigue, but it's also a great de-stresser.
Cindi M., 53
Lincoln, NE
I get monthly massage therapy to keep me feeling good. I've established a great relationship with my massage therapist, who's been with me for 6 years of the journey. She really knows my body and is good at working out the kinks and adjusting when pain has me over-accommodating on one side or another.
Jenny A., 50
Salt Lake City, UT
What I've learned is while you can't control what randomly happens in life, you can control how you respond. After treatment, I got involved in patient advocacy and started a foundation to support myeloma patients and research. The journey to be actively involved in helping others was my emotional therapy.
Dawn T., 58
Boca Raton, FL
I try to eat healthy. I start my day with organic oatmeal topped with walnuts, green tea, and a green smoothie with protein powder. I've learned my body needs a large green salad to counteract the constipation from my trial drugs. I generally stick with seafood, poultry, or beans for protein. I also drink tons of water.
Tom Z., 54
Red Bank, NJ
Get involved with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation to be around other active and positive people with MM. Do yoga and meditation. Find something to be passionate about. Explore your creative side. I took up photography. Attitude is everything. Stay positive –– new treatments are being discovered yearly.
Pat C., 70
Fayetteville, GA
Don't feel guilty because you cannot do as much as you used to. Ask for help with things that leave you a bit exhausted. My friends did small things like let me out of the car right in front of the door. Support groups are important. Sharing your experience with others with the same disease is so helpful.
Carol M., 59
Vero Beach, FL
With good nutrition, whatever exercise you can manage, and an active social life, you can still lead a happy, productive life. I'm not saying it's easy because it's not. Quitting sugar, eating green, taking naps, getting massages, trying to lead a stress-free life, and keeping busy is exhausting. But it works.
Jim W., 51
Kansas City, MO
The first thing is to get a second opinion. This is, to me, the most important thing to do. Your doctor may only treat three or four myeloma patients a year. You want to go to a doctor who sees at least 50 myeloma patients a year or is part of a practice that sees 100 myeloma patients a year.
Eric A., 51
Annapolis, MD
To help with fatigue, I've always received my treatments on Friday afternoon. This allows me to go home straight after. I then have the weekend to rest and recuperate. Typically, the second day after treatment has me feeling the worst. I try to make time for extra rest and a nap in the afternoon on Sunday.
Bob T., 61
Forest Hills, NY
One of the most important things that I learned when I was diagnosed with myeloma is not to shut out the world or go quiet. Tell people what happened. It isn't some sort of thing that you should view as a weakness or a mark of shame. You need to get comfort and information. Isolation will only breed fear.
Michelle C., 51
New York, NY
Infection can not only put you in the hospital, but prevent you from continuing treatment. Keeping well while being around children all the time can be tricky. It's important to wear a mask regularly if you must be in a crowd. If you can, enjoy vacations and high-traffic places while your numbers are good!

From WebMD

More on Multiple Myeloma