PUBLISHED ON: 4 December 2017

After treatment ended, Betty struggled with fatigue. She realised she wasn't the only one, and gives her top tips on how to manage it.

Betty struggled with fatigue after breast cancer treatment

I was 61 when I was diagnosed. I’d just retired and started to get my pension. I was excited to be a lady of leisure, so I wasn’t best pleased! Until then, I’d been working in a doctor’s surgery in palliative care and on reception duties.

My treatment lasted over 17 months. It was one thing after another, without a break. I was taking letrozole and having Herceptin every three weeks at the hospital, and the fatigue got worse and worse as it went on. I’d get up in the morning, and even if I had a full night’s sleep I’d feel tired.

It was so frustrating – I wanted to do things but I just couldn’t.

I started having dark days

My thoughts would start driving me down. I thought: ‘I have to pull myself together, I’m on the road to recovery. I should feel better, not worse!’

I’m someone who likes to get things done, and became angry with myself for not being able to do them.

I thought there was something wrong with me

I’d known people who’d had breast cancer, but they hadn’t had chemotherapy and I didn’t know that fatigue was a side effect. I thought it was just me, that I was being a drama queen.

I spoke to a nurse, who told me it happens to a lot of people. But as time went on, I got worried and thought there was something more serious wrong with me as I was so exhausted all the time.

Realising I wasn’t alone

It was only when a doctor explained that fatigue is a common side effect of chemotherapy that I realised it wasn’t just me. I got in touch with my breast care nurse, who directed me to a Moving Forward course.

At the course, one woman said: ‘I am tired all the time!’ We all laughed! We all felt the same. We started comparing notes on managing fatigue, and joking about it. It was such a relief!

I then found so much information on Breast Cancer Care’s website, which lead me to BECCA, their app with tips on adapting to life beyond treatment.

I was being too harsh on myself

I was pushing myself too much. I thought: ‘If I can get on with it, I’ll be fine.’ But you can’t beat or fight fatigue, you have to manage it. Once you accept that you’re not Wonder Woman, you can adjust and pace yourself.

I’m now on tamoxifen, which can also cause fatigue. But because I know what it is, I can accept it and live with it. It no longer takes over my day.

Betty’s tips for managing fatigue

  1. Go for short walks to keep active without exhausting yourself. I love my walking, especially in the crisp, winter sunshine.
  2. Eat sensibly and avoid overly sugary food, it will only make you crash later!
  3. Mindfulness colouring books are brilliant for helping you learn to accept certain things and be kinder to yourself.
  4. BECCA, the Breast Cancer Care App, has plenty of tips for managing fatigue. There are also fun creative cards that are great for distracting you, like how to make pom-poms!

Find tips on managing fatigue and read more personal stories like Betty’s in BECCA, our free app.