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Friends, Fatigue and the Slow Slog Back

I have much experience with serious illness.  And so I am a connoisseur of fatigue: the sleepless edginess of post-radiation fatigue; the heavy constancy of cardiac fatigue; the blur and blues of chemotherapy-related fatigue.

I am learning again about post-surgical fatigue, which this time is characterized by short bursts of energy randomly emerging from an otherwise constant whacked-upside-the-head-with-a-golf-club sleeping/waking fog.

Regardless of the flavor, it is the force of fatigue that exacerbates the discomforts and symptoms of an illness.  It is fatigue that makes each sip of water an action to be carefully planned, each trip to the refrigerator an accomplishment.  It is fatigue that exhausts my hands holding a book and my mind when reading more than a few sentences. It is fatigue that shrinks my world to the size of my living room, leaching the meaning from family news, work developments and the impending election.

Fatigue diminishes me: I consist only of this disease, this body.

Into this gray desolation drop brief messages of support, of encouragement, of good wishes.  These words are not sent to the thin figure lying on the couch staring at the sky.  Rather, they are addressed to a friend, acquaintance, colleague, daughter, or sister – a person who stands up straight, is passionately engaged in her life and has a lot of work to do.

These messages remind me of the parts of myself that are eclipsed by my illness.  And they reassure me that I will be able to find those parts again.

I am grateful for each one.

Jessie Gruman, PhD, is the founder and president of the Washington, DC -based Center for Advancing Health. She is the author of Aftershock: What to Do When You or Someone you Love is Diagnosed with a Devastating Diagnosis. She blogs regularly on the Prepared Patient Forum.

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