Fatigue is a common problem after a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. It’s more than the usual feeling of tiredness. Fatigue can have a big impact on your everyday life - it can make you feel both physically and mentally drained, leaving you with little energy or motivation.
After a transplant, fatigue can be caused by a combination of factors:
Getting treatment and support for the side effects of a stem cell transplant may help with fatigue. There are also ways you can manage fatigue and make the most of the energy you have.
You can read more in our booklet Managing fatigue after a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
Pacing your activities throughout the day means you can make the most of the energy you have, while avoiding doing too much and getting more fatigued.
‘I encourage patients to do small activities and then have a rest. Try not to expect too much of yourself and don’t feel guilty if you are not able to do the things you feel you should do or want to do.’
Mandy, BMT Nurse. Read more in her blog about how to manage fatigue after a transplant.
If you can, it may help to:
The amount of sleep people need varies – most of us need about eight hours a night, while a few people can get by with only three. Night-time sleep is most important for your overall wellbeing, and even your recovery. Limiting your daytime naps is really important. Extra sleep during the day won’t make you feel better, because it doesn’t affect what’s causing your fatigue.
Having an evening routine can help you prepare for a good night’s sleep. This might include:
Meditation can also help to improve sleep and reduce fatigue. Find out more at bemindful.co.uk
Exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do, but there’s a growing amount of research suggesting that light-to-moderate exercise can help reduce treatment-related fatigue and improve your physical strength. It can also improve your quality of life and how you feel emotionally. Find out more about keeping active.
‘A friend suggested I try a yoga DVD. It’s not strenuous and the movements are slow. It meant I could build up my muscles really gently.’
Read Sarah’s blog about pacing herself and finding balance after her transplant.
‘In 2010 I had a stem cell transplant and I’ve had some post-transplant complications which have really limited what I can do. This has created a lot of anxiety about my identity. One thing that has helped me to manage my feelings has been phototherapy.’
Read Pavlos’s blog about using photography to recover after a transplant
For tips on making day-to-day tasks easier – like shopping, cooking and looking after the house and coping at work – as well as suggestions for ways to relax and get enough sleep, read Macmillan Cancer Support’s information on fatigue.
Explaining fatigue to those around you can be a big challenge. Your friends, family and people at work may think that because you’ve had a transplant, you’re now better and can get on with life as normal, when in reality you’re still recovering.
It may help to show them our booklet about fatigue, so they can understand what you’re dealing with and what helps.