Fatigue and Me
Having now completed 2 weeks of intense radiation treatments, Fatigue and I have become fairly constant companions. Fatigue is more than just being tired. Tiredness is an annoyance, an inconvenience. But Fatigue lives at the edge of Survival. Thankfully, Life rarely brings Fatigue.
In 1980 I was so fatigued from agranulocytosis that I struggled with myself just to inhale. With each inhalation, I felt I had just climbed Mt. Everest. And what mother doesn’t know the fatigue that comes with a newborn? In 1983 I was recovering from surgery, nursing a premature infant every 2 hours for weeks on end, returning to work nightshift, and managing the home while Dave was in Switzerland for his final exams. The Fatigue during those weeks is forever seared in my memory.
And now Fatigue has become my companion again.
At the beginning I was in denial. “It’s too soon to have this side effect. This must be in my head.” The literature said radiation side effects didn’t usually start until 2-3 weeks into treatment. So I kept pushing myself, disciplining myself to get things done. But as the days passed, there was no escaping, and the depth of fatigue was growing. Soon I was panicked.
Then I went to the other extreme. “I don’t think I can make it!” My dear husband has heard that cry from me on more than one occasion in the past 2 weeks. Counting down the days of radiation….oh! it moved so slowly!
After denial and panic, I settled down to quiet prayer. “Lord, You own this day. Teach me how to cope.”
And so I will try to put in writing principles that I have learned about coping with extensive Fatigue.
1) Get rid of unnecessary activities. Clothes washing can wait; piano dusting can wait; visiting can wait; even church can wait. In reality, the list of things that are absolutely essential to life is very short.
2) Let others help, and let go of pride and stubbornness. Let others do things, and let them do things their way. No need to “supervise”; no need to “check.” This goes for such essentials as cooking meals, getting dressed, grocery shopping, basic housecleaning, and dishwashing.
3) Let go of “issues”. This is not the time to discuss meaty things, to debate personal issues, to correct problems. If someone does something or says something that bothers you, just let it go! It’s not worth the effort to “fix” now. You can let your voice be heard on the subject another day.
4) Give people freedom to be ignorant of your situation. In fact, embrace the fact that you and Fatigue are utterly alone together. No one really understands how close you are to a complete cave-in. You are in survival mode, and very few really understand that mode. So when others try to put their expectations on you, just walk away politely. It’s OK. Even better is to have a husband or daughter or close friend stand for you and say to others “we’re sorry, but we can’t do that now…maybe next month.”
5) Do what you can do to care for yourself physically. Take chamomile tea, calcium, Valerian Root, hot shower to promote sleep. Listen to yourself; try to avoid getting so fatigued that you can’t sleep. Eat things that are high in nutrition but easily digested: yogurt, macaroni and cheese, fish, etc. Have a routine that accommodates your strength: sleep at bedtime, nap during the afternoon, work in the morning, etc.
6) And, finally, make the conscious choice to trust in the Lord for the day’s strength. We often quote Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusts in thee.” But do you know the next verse? “Trust in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” You see, in the end, the issue is not about how strong we are, or about our “coping strategies.” No, it is about how strong the Lord is. As James wrote, even the rich and powerful are no stronger than the grass of the field, which passes quickly. We must use the common sense that the Lord has given to us in coping with Fatigue, but in the end, it is not our common sense that carries us – it is our resting in His ability. He knows us. He experienced Fatigue during His journey on earth. He alone is shut up with us and this time of Fatigue. And He is more than able to give to His children the strength they need for the day.
The only question is: Will we avail ourselves of His strength by resting in His ability? Will we trust His love towards us in offering His strength? Will we “let go” and “let Him” supernaturally, inexplicably carry us until this period of Fatigue passes?
And it will pass. God by His love will either restore our health and strength, or else He will take us Home. Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow – these are the possessions of those of us who belong to the Lord Jesus!
January 8, 2010