Fatigue : My mum has terrible fatigue... - The Roy Castle Lu...

The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

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My mum has terrible fatigue to the point that she couldn’t move out of bed this morning. She eventually got up and has taken it very slow and easy all day, but she says it feels like all life has been sucked out of her body.

She’s due to start second-line treatment a week tomorrow after the chemo/immunotherapy did not help. The cancer is still contained in the chest, but I believe it’s more extensive there now.

Mum and dad say that the fatigue is caused by her recent radiotherapy sessions. She had 5 sessions to the main tumour from Mon - Fri. This finished just over a week ago. The fatigue kicked in on the Monday following her last treatment. My worry is that it’s not the radiotherapy, but the cancer causing her to feel so fatigued. Is it possible to experience fatigue as bad as this from the radiotherapy?

7 Replies

Sorry to read your mum's feeling so bad. The treatments are harsh and can affect our bodies in a myriad of ways to blitz the cancer cells. Fatigue is a well recognised side effect of many of the treatments but knowing that, doesn't help the patient at the time when they can feel so exhausted. It's good if the cancer is contained in the chest - I'm unsure why you feel it's more extensive now - as the clinicians are monitoring this and the effects of the treatment. Id agree with your parents that it's the treatment mainly knocking her about - yes, it's possible to feel awful as a result of the treatment but not everyone experiences the treatments in the same way. I found two books helped me understand some of this - as it's also possible to develop other conditions whilst we have cancer - not every thing that happens - every nerve twitch, every time we feel hot/cold etc will be related to the cancer but it's easy to jump to that conclusion. 'Cancer is a word not a sentence' by Dr Rob Buckman helped me understand and appreciate that - and related to how harshly they have and do treat cancer is well described in 'the emperor of all maladies' by S. Mukherjee. I'm sure others will 'reassure' you that the treatment can leave patients exhausted so hope that will help you. Cancer treatments have to be harsh and in normal circumstances would be considered very toxic to the body so when combined and delivered over short periods of time can feel patients feeling quite ill but in the longer term, this will be 'hitting' the cancer cells. good luck to you and your family. there are some helpful Q&As in this piece including about tiredness... roycastle.org/about-lung-ca...

Thank you for your reply Janette. This morning has been really difficult. Dad called me to say mum wasn’t right -she couldn’t move or wake up properly. I went round and she was really out of it.

I then discovered she’d taken a sleeping tablet last night and that she only normally takes half a one if she really needs it.

We called the GP who rang and kept in touch with us. She said the sleeping pill could have made her like this but I’m not sure. Mum then started to come round more. She started speaking better and had a coffee and a trifle. She’s since gone back to sleep. Her breathing is rapid but she seems more relaxed sleeping.

I’m so scared. I don’t know if this is just a state of severe fatigue combined with the sleeping pill or that she’s succumbing to the cancer.

sounds as if the sleeping tablet (being double usual dose) would be the culprit as well as the treatment knocking her about. fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of cancer and its treatment and people have better and worse days but it doesn't mean that every 'worse' day that things are spreading but that we all respond differently. It sounds a bit better that she woke up and had something to eat and drink. She sounds exhausted and sleep is a way of the body repairing itself. You could always contact Roy Castle lung cancer foundation or macmillan nurse led helplines as they're available for anyone who's touched by cancer to speak to somebody with their concerns.... thinking of you...

Thank you again for your support.

I rang the support line, which helped to talk to someone.

When I left mum this afternoon, she was able to get out of bed, walk to bathroom (bit wobbly) unaided. She was much more alert in terms of speaking and responding, but very sleepy still.

She won’t be taking a pill tonight!

She was prescribed them to take as an emergency when her sleep was really bad. Usually she would just take half a tablet, but last night at midnight she took a whole one.

Fingers crossed, it’s the effects of the pill and the radiotherapy as opposed to anything else.


I’ve had radiation twice. First for my lung cancer second for the breast cancer. Radiation is debilitating. I didn’t realize how much it showed on my outside it was finished. An acquaintance remarked on how refreshed I looked, was I done with radiation. I was surprised she could tell that just seeing my face.

Keep your mom hydrated and maybe cut those sleeping pills in half for her. The fatigue may have been so profound that she didn’t have energy to do that.

flatterycat in reply to Denzie

Thank you Denzie

She only usually takes one once in a while, so really hoping that the pill, combined with the radiotherapy is the culprit.



Dear flatterycatSorry to hear your Mum is very fatigued. With Radiotherapy, it builds up in the system and most people find this fatigue really hits when their cycles have finished. It can leave you feeling suddenly with no energy and only remedy is to rest, with time the energy does return over the next 4-6 weeks. It is a type of fatigue that you are unable to fight as it does command your body to rest.

However if you are concerned about her perhaps have a chat to her lung cancer nurse specialist or oncologist.

This is the link to our booklet on radiotherapy: roycastle.org/app/uploads/2...

Hope your Mum feels better soon and if you would like to discuss anything you can either email us at lungcancerhelp@roycastle.org or call our free phone nurse led helpline number on 0800 358 72000

Kind regards

The Roy Castle Support Team

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