How to Fight Fatigue When You Have Multiple Myeloma

Medically Reviewed by Gabriela Pichardo, MD on June 12, 2022
3 min read

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Say goodbye to alcohol and tobacco.

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.

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.

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.