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radiation fatigue

Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2007

I finished two weeks ago a 6 week radiation for squamous cell cancer lymp nodes in my neck. The radiation was a nightmare rendereing me unable to eat or even swallow correctly.I was in a great deal of pain requiring liqued narcotics.

Now the depressing part. Even though it's been two weeks post radiation I still feel this overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. I get up in the morning after a long nights sleep, make 2 cups of coffee and a protein shake, take a shower and the collaspe in my easy chair as if I had been working all day. Everyday I want to go to my volunteer job, but just can't imagine the 8 short block walk. It's getting very isolating and discouraging.

Is anyone else going through the same thing?
I'm very discouraged.


Posts: 5
Joined: Jun 2007

I think fatigue goes along with the program, I still suffer from it, five years after radiation, but have learned how to handle it. At least what works for me.
First, is don't wear yourself out then just give up. Do a task, take a break, do another task, take a break. I know that is not easy for somebody that is accustomed to a go-go-go world, but it works. Instead of wearing out and sitting down, just slow down. Do keep active though, even if it is extra trips to the bathroom to relieve that extra cup of coffee. Take my word for it, it takes a long time to rebuild let muscle.
My wife, may God always bless her, went and bought me Bichon Frieze puppy, 3 months old, a leash (for the puppy), and a new cane. We taught her to “go” outside. She’s 3 years old now, but when she’s go to go, she does give “daddy” incentive to get up out of his chair.

Tigger35's picture
Posts: 21
Joined: Mar 2005

I have had 36 rounds of radiation for each breast cancer that I have had. I was very tired for quite a long time after each cancer. Only being away from radiation 2 weeks isn't very much time, even though it probably feels that way to you. I made a schedule that I could manage with 2 kids at home. There were certain things I just couldn't do for awhile, but the energy slowly came back. It takes time, you'll start finding things to be easier with time. I can say that all the chemo and radiation I have had has aged me physically, but I still keep my spirits young as much as possible. I truly understand the isolating feeling. You're not alone in how you feel. Take care, go slow, it gets easier.

Anonymous user (not verified)

kmpr, these folks are right on the money. It is going to take some time for you to regain your energy.
In the meantime may I make a suggestion?
During those 'down times' when you are just tooo tired to be active in body, how about keeping you mind active and off the fatigue your body is experiencing? I do crosswords, read, plan projects for when I feel better, etc. Just sitting there staring at the tv is counterproductive to rebuilding your life.
And don't worry if you doze off...the project will still be there when you wake up.

Posts: 9
Joined: Apr 2008

Hi I just finished 33 treatments of radation for vocal chord cancer. I just posted this same problem on another thread post. I defintaly can relate to what you are going through. It has been 4 weeks since I finished and I am tired all the time. I take naps through out the day. It is very discouraging when you want to do somethin and you just can't, but according to all the advice I am getting this is normal and our bodies need the extra rest to heal itself. So hang in there, we'll get through this soon, Charlene

Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2008

I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, stage I seminoma, and did the 15 treatments of radiation for prevention... It has been two weeks since I finished my radiation and I feel tired throughout the day. During the last two weeks I made the mistake of hitting the gym hard (as I used to prior to being diagnosed) and I dont know if that "set me back" in my recovery, any suggestions?

Posts: 14
Joined: May 2009

My 76 year old husband had his surgery Nov. 3, 2008 to remove the upper jaw and a mouth lesion with a skin graft. On Jan. 6, 2009 he had another surgery to remove mouth lesions, 27 lymph nodes (4 being malignant) and skin graft. On April 24 he completed 34 radiation treatments. He had a g tube inserted in March. His biggest problem is absolutely no energy and spends much of his time in bed or the recliner. Everyone says this is common after radiation to the mouth but I need to know what other people do about it. I feel so sorry for him and can't be of any help. He had his first cat scan last week and tomorrow we will see the oncologist. Need lots of prayers. Any info anyone can give me will be greatly appreciated. Betty

hodgkoid2003's picture
Posts: 94
Joined: Apr 2009


Fatigue from radiation is not only normal, but common. Clearly, bring this up with the oncologist, but, patients totally understimate how much radiation actually takes out of you. And it will take some time to bounce back. I recall before I started my rads, I used to be a night owl staying up often til 3am or so. That changed to around 8pm with radiation.
Rule of thumb, as long as the issue is not anything other than fatigue, listen to the body. It does no good, recovery-wise, to push its limits. If he feels like putting a roof on the house, let him. If he doesn't want to get up to change the channel on the TV, then that is okay too.

Paul E. (Hodgkoid2003)

(I went through 30 treatments of what is considered a pretty severe amount of radiation - by today's standards)

MrRoute66's picture
Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2009

Hello Paul
As you can see I am new to this sight. I was beginning to think that maybe I was the only one that understood how totally exhausted I feel. After 9 months of hormone deprivation (Lupron) and 45 rad treatments, I was thinking that I was going to not have a problem with fatigue. Then one morning I woke up, showered, drank my coffee and had my fruit and cereal. When I got up from the table it felt like all of my energy ran out my toes. I never have felt so terribly tired and exhausted. My last treatment was 12/20/2008, so it has been about 8 months. I tried to carry on my old routine, and that just did not work. (Interior Painting)
I really suspected maybe depression....but I love life, good positive attitude, regular exercise...have to walk with cane...so not too brisk, family support, strong faith, all the right things. So I started reading...I did not know that fatigue could last so long or have such an impact. My doctor did not forwarn me of this. Maybe he did and I cjose to ignore and forget. :-) I am glad that I found this site.....and found out that it is not just me with fatigue problem.

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sep 2006

Betty, I am a tongue/neck cancer survivor (lung, too, but that is another story), went through a 15 hour surgery to replace half of my tongue, followed by 35 radiation treatments (I managed to make 33 of them) along with chemotherapy (cisplatin). However, at the time I was 49 years old, so age may play at least a small part in the difference between your husband's experience and mine.

That said, please be advised that radiation continues to 'cook' for some time after the last treatment, and that the side-effects or after-effects of radiation may last as long as six months.

Along with that, I am not sure if your husband is being monitored regularly for weight and things like white/red blood cell counts and hemoglobin levels now, but if he is on the peg tube 100% of the time, it may be that he needs a larger 'dose' of protein and supplements in his canned diet. I, for example, was and am using Jevity, but after a short while and careful monitoring, mine was changed from 1.2 to 1.5, and I was given an additional protein additive for it, along with the advice to take certain over-the-counter vitamin supplements.

I would check with his doctor and/or nutritionist to see if there is anything to that notion.

In the meantime, there may also be some lethargy that might be attributable to depression. Cancer is known for that, after all. The surgeries and treatments your husband has experienced are akin to combat, and can only be that much more traumatic for the body of a man of his age. I like to say that we get into a knife fight that we have no chance of winning. In that light, encourage him, motivate him, to get out and get about. Perhaps some therapy would be helpful?

I am just throwing these out there, Betty, not knowing much more about the particulars, but I have been through some of what your husband has experienced, NOT AS MUCH, and can appreciate where he is energy-wise.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes to both of you, Betty.

Take care,


Posts: 14
Joined: May 2009

Paul & Joe, thanks so much for your help. We just came home from the oncologist and thankfully Elmer's cat scan came back normal except for a lot of scar tissue in his mouth which will take time to heal. The Dr. did do blood work for this thyroid just in case the radiation could have affected it. He lost another 5 lbs. which the Dr. didn't like. I feed him jevity 1.5 three times a day and the Dr. said I have to increase it. Elmer doesn't like all the burping he does from it but I told him that is much better than to continue loosing weight (60 lbs. so far) Good luck to everyone and thank you so much for your concern. Betty

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sep 2006


When I was strictly on a Jevity 1.5 diet, I was taking two cans each, four times a day (yes, 8 cans daily). While I initially lost more than 75 pounds following surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, I have since recovered 25 pounds of that, and am within 10 pounds of where I 'should be'.

As for the burping, I didn't have that problem, and I suspect it is because I was (and am) on nexium (1 per day, per prescription). You might consider an over the counter acid reflux or antacid to help with that. Just another thought.

Take care,


Posts: 14
Joined: May 2009

Joe, thanks again for the info. Elmer does take a prilosec daily and has done so for many years because of a hiatal hernia. That probably does not help the burping. Today I gave him an extra 470 calories and plan on doing so each day. He's a farmer and setting in the house this time of the year doesn't suit him very much. I told him he will just have to believe that next year will be better. Betty

Posts: 92
Joined: Mar 2009

i had radiation which ended at the end of last oct. i still have days where i am going okay and then i hit that wall of exhaustion. today was one of those days for me. the reality is that radiation has that effect on the body and we have to make the adjustments to fit in the best we can. i stayed off of work for 3 weeks after i came home from 2 months in the hospital. i needed all 3 weeks of it. it's all part of the package deal we are given to live with. i've had to learn to listen to my body and not the desire to go go go. take it easy for a while and adjust. tony

Craig_Griffin's picture
Posts: 52
Joined: Feb 2009

I am surprised that your oncology team didn't fill you in about the fatigue considerations. I am not an expert, but an 8 month cancer free survivor. I still have a lot of fatigue 8 months after final treatment. The best that I can say is that I have had a few days 6 months out where I actually felt normal for a full day. Then things went back to the usual. I average 12 or 13 hours of sleep a night. BUT- through all this, and every step of the way through diagnosis, chemotherapy, and now radiation recovery; I have told myself that I will be a survivor. And so far it has been working. So the thought I have is that it is a sacrifice, but for all my friends and relatives it was important for me (after more than a year of treatment) to be able to say "I made it!". I hope the same for you. -Craig.

SPILLERCJ's picture
Posts: 14
Joined: Mar 2009


grandma2selena's picture
Posts: 200
Joined: Jun 2009

I had 40 sessions of Radiation along with Chemo for Anal Cancer. I felt the extreme to the bone fatique for a good couple of months. I still get tired now 3.5 months out from the end of the treatment. Everyone is a little different as to how long it takes them to totally recover from this. It is a frustrating time though, but hang in there it does get better. I am pretty much back to a good energy level, but still have my days that I just turn the granddaughter and housework over to my husband so I can spend the day relaxing from being tired. There are still mornings I get up only to feel I need to turn on the cartoons for my granddaughter while I rest on the couch.

There was a report on this that came out of Washington University and they said the best way to start the recovery from Radiation Fatigue is to try to be active, don't over do, but just try to pace yourself, that activity even walking will help greatly in regaining one's energy.

Debbie (New Here)

Anonymous user (not verified)

This comment has been removed by the Moderator

Posts: 1
Joined: Aug 2017

I finished brain tumor radiation more than a month ago now and all of a sudden I can't even get up... I am so tired. I was fine before this too. I have been going to work and going out to eat and doing everything pretty much back to normal. Now for the past 2 or 3 days I am so tired. Is that normal to go back to being so fatigued?? I hate this. I just want to be able to do my normal activities. I'm 23 and I am trying to go back to school and work but I can't get anything done because I have to nap all day. How long does this last? 

Posts: 30
Joined: Aug 2017

Have some hope.  Two weeks after radiation I was still having a lot of fatigue.  I can't really point to a specific date when things turned around.  But there must have been a date when things have slowly/steadily improved day by day. 

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