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College with chemo fatigue?

michdavidadams's picture
michdavidadams
Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2017

I am about to end my 3-year long chemotherapy treatment for leukemia. At first, I tried full-time at a private college but every day was a struggle, I missed so many classes because I was sick (sometimes I couldn't even get out of bed), and I was just getting through the day. Then, I switched to a community college doing just 1 class every semester and it has been going well. This semester, I tried going to 2 classes. The first class went fine, but 10 minutes into the second class, something just hit me. My focus disappeared, my body started aching, I was out of it, and I started sweating like crazy even though the room was air conditioned. Once that class was over, I went to my friend's house to hang out and rest, but after an hour, I felt dead. I hadn't been that exhausted for a long time. My friend had to drive me home. The second day went worse. I was exhausted during the first class but powered through it. I talked with my parents and decided that doing 1 real-life class, and take an online class.

I tried looking online to see if any other people had this problem, but every college student basically said, "I was determined to finish college, so I powered through it. I wouldn't let cancer ruin my life." Which made me feel like I wasn't trying hard enough. I am not a very social person anyway, but I still try to go out and do things and I do like taking classes. I take Ritalin slow release to help with the fatigue, and it does give me energy throughout the day. Sometimes it's like my mind is ready for anything but my body thinks I've just ran a marathon. Other days my mind is exhausted as well as my body, so I can't do anything those days.

What do other college students with cancer do? Seeing all these college students going through college without a problem makes me feel really lazy and like I'm not trying at all. I wish I had the determination to do what they do, but there's just no way to do that unless I spend every day exhausted. The doctors have told me fatigue is normal, especially with a treatment this long, but I don't know of anyone with cancer that could only take 1 class. Frown

JerzyGrrl's picture
JerzyGrrl
Posts: 757
Joined: Jun 2016

We're all on our own journeys as we're living with cancer. We have different symptoms, different energy levels. 

You sound pretty determined to get through college as well. You seem to be sensitive to your energy levels and symptoms. That's good. If one on-campus class is working for you and - at least at this time - two classes isn't, you're right with what works for you. 

That you chose to do your work at a community college is quite brilliant. Less cost, which means less stress on your system. You're making some great choices. 

Have you taken online courses before? I have. One - on Excel - totally wiped me out. I wasn't dealing with cancer then, but was chronically exhausted from work. Gah. Even my family asked, "When will we get you back?" Then I took one in Russian. That was more engaging, but in a good way. 

I didn't have chemo, but post surgery I was like you, being physically exhausted and/or mentally exhausted, with no way to really predict what was coming next. I compared myself to others who had the same treatment that I did, be wondering what the heck my problem was that I couldn't get back into being as active as they were, then I compared myself with others who weren't as active as I was being and wondered... Oh, dear. This comparison stuff is a waste of time and energy, and not a life skill you really want to nurture. If you're concerned, ask your care team, listen to your body.

You strike me as someone who IS very determined - Determined to be sensible. Determined to still be involved in college. The sensibility thing? That's one heck of a life skill, one many people NEVER learn. You got this.

PS those other college students? They SAY they had no problems. Maybe t they did, maybe they didn't. Maybe they had friends who took notes for them. Maybe they guzzled energy drinks and slept most of their time. Maybe their classes didn't require much outside of class. Maybe they had the gift of time travel and could redo last Tuesday until they slept enough and had enough energy to finally get to class. Maybe energy wasn't an issues for them. Also, you're getting their edited version of what happened. Or. Or. Or. Biggest difference, they weren't living your life, they were living theirs. 

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