I don’t think I ever fully understood the fatigue cancer patients experience until my grandfather walked through his cancer diagnosis.
My grandfather was one of the strongest people I have ever known. He was a World War II hero, serving our country for four years. During the war, his unit liberated a concentration camp. He lived in fox holes and spent months on ships and did and saw things that I could never even imagine. After the war, he married my grandmother. Together, they had four beautiful daughters. He loved his girls with his whole heart.
To make ends meet, my grandfather worked as a bricklayer. Through his work, he traveled all over the country, sometimes for months on end. I can still remember the roughness of his hands. No amount of hand lotion could hide the years of hard labor they endured!
After his retirement, my grandfather took up golfing and exercising. He and my grandmother would go to the “spa” (as they called it) several times each week. Once, he took me there and was so proud to show me all of the weights he lifted. His form? Horrendous!! But he loved every minute of it. Going to the spa was the highlight of his day.
So, when my grandfather was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in 2007, it was a huge shock to our family. We always looked to him as a strong, unshakable pillar in our family. It was hard to wrap our brains around the idea that he could be so sick.
What was even harder, was the rapid decline we saw him make physically. Just days before his diagnosis, he walked 18 holes of golf. Five weeks later, he died.
Five weeks later.
Soon after his diagnosis, I drove to Pittsburgh to visit him. At this time, I had been conducting research in the field of exercise oncology for four years. I had planned to show up, give him a stellar workout plan, and save the day. With my whole heart, I believed he would pull through and be just fine.
When I arrived at his house, I found him sitting in the big blue chair in his family room. I paused for a minute, because I didn’t remember him looking so frail the last time I saw him (which was about three weeks earlier). That caught me off guard.
My grandmother was sitting next to him on the ottoman, feeding him scrambled eggs. She didn’t even look up as I entered the room. All she could do was stare at him with a look of pain and worry and sorrow I had never seen before.
Suddenly, I was very aware that things were not okay. I knew there wasn’t much I could tangibly offer to fix this situation. All I could do was sit and listen.
With tears in his eyes, my grandfather looked at me. He said, “You have no idea how exhausting it is….just to eat these eggs.”
With that statement, my grandfather summarized what my patients had been trying to tell me for years.
Cancer is exhausting.
It affects every single area of your life. It makes tasks you once took for granted – tasks as simple as eating scrambled eggs – seem impossible.
A quick fix isn’t going to solve it. I now understand that.
There was no way my grandfather could have gotten off that blue chair and gone to the gym with me.
He wasn’t helpless.
I believed that with my whole heart.
So, I took a deep breath and suggested the only thing I could think of in that moment.
“Just give me a few minutes. I think I can help.”
With that, we took a walk. Only, it wasn’t a walk like any other walk I’d ever been on before. We simply walked around the downstairs of his house.
That was all.
On the outside, it didn’t look like much. But to him…..to me…..it was everything. It gave us back something we thought he had lost – his control. His energy.
Research will tell you that when you are experiencing cancer-related fatigue, exercise can help. It may seem like the very last thing you want to do at the time, but it is true. Taking a nap will only serve to exacerbate fatigue symptoms. However, a few minutes of moderate intensity exercise can actually help!
Science supports this.
I believe my grandfather would, too.
Lately, with so much of this country on lock down from the coronavirus, we understand that patients are going to be more sedentary than normal. Therefore, we expect that cancer-related fatigue levels will be higher than normal, as well.
We think we can help.
All we ask is that you give us a few minutes.
We have developed a free give away called “5 to Thrive” – You give us 5 minutes, and we will help boost your energy levels.
This is our gift to you, to let you know that you are not alone in this. Just click on this link on our home page to receive!
Social distancing does not mean isolation.
Closed fitness centers does not mean exercise can’t happen.
Doing what you can, with whatever you have available to you will help.
So, the question I leave with you is….
Can you spare 5 minutes?