How to Fight Fatigue When You Have Multiple Myeloma

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. He 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. He might also want you to make changes to your diet.

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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 Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on May 08, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

John Hopkins University: “Multiple Myeloma.”

American Cancer Society: “Lifestyle Changes After Having Multiple Myeloma.”

National Cancer Institute.

Judy Berry, PhD, University of Rochester Medical Center; author, Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment for Multiple Myeloma.

International Myeloma Foundation: "Understanding Anemia and Fatigue," “Understanding Fatigue.”

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