Tired of Being Tired?
Cancer Center's Symptom Management and Supportive Care Clinic helps patients fight fatigue and other side effects of treatmentAt 84, Emanuel Tanay is far too busy to be tired. A retired clinical professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University and well-known forensics psychiatrist, Tanay's diagnosis of metastatic prostate cancer seven years ago has by no means stopped him from doing what he enjoys. He continues teaching in the University of Michigan's Lifelong Learning program, is writing another book and does what he can to stay active.
Nevertheless, symptoms and side effects from his cancer and treatment have slowed him down.
Tanay's treatment has included extensive radiation, surgery and a drug called Lupron that eliminates testosterone and is often used to treat symptoms of prostate cancer. In addition to playing a key role in the development of male reproductive tissue, testosterone is related to energy and cognition. Without testosterone, simply put, fatigue sets in.
"My resilience is very low," says Tanay. "In other words, it takes very little for me to get exhausted. I can get started on my computer and, if something doesn't go right, the next thing I know . . . [feigns sleep]."
- Medication side effects
- Emotional distress
- Sleep issues
- Nutrition issues
Fatigue is rarely an isolated symptom and is perceived by cancer patients to be one of the most distressing symptoms of cancer treatment.
"People's self-worth is often tied up in what they were doing before they had cancer," says Nurse Practitioner Suzette Walker, co-director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center's Symptom Management and Supportive Care Clinic. "Their sense of who they are is often their employment. When they're too tired, they feel like they're failing themselves and their families. It's a vicious circle of being tired and depressed as they seek a new normal."
In Tanay's case, fatigue has come with other side effects like difficulty walking and hot flashes. He visits the Symptom Management and Supportive Care Clinic around once a month for help.