So, how do you cope after the initial diagnosis? Sleepless and worried or relieved and thinking? Maybe tired? These are things you may go through whether or not you have had a Breast Cancer diagnosis. 


Sometimes I just keep going when I know I should stop and rest. I mean, I feel good. Somehow, I feel I have to keep going to make up for those times when I don’t feel good and can’t keep going. If you identified with this – Stop right now and let’s figure out how you can get the rest you need, without feeling guilty.


Doing too Much
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I was talking with a friend, Arletta, today, who apologized for not returning my phone call. I told her, “I don’t even sweat why people may not return my call, because I know they have a life, too.”  “Whenever I remember I hadn’t heard from you, I’d call again.” (Yep, I’m that kind of friend.)  


2. Always leave a message. The truth is I wasn’t exactly sure what I said in the message I left her. Since I left one, she was able to remind me. I told Arletta, maybe I couldn’t remember due to chemo-brain or tiredness (neither of us would ever claim old age as an excuse). Arletta said, “We’re just doing too damn much.” Deep down, I know she’s right!


3. Stop You already know you should stop and rest, before you get to the point of exhaustion. Which is, by the way, Selye’s last stage in the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). Organisms that repeatedly reach this stage show obvious signs of wear and tear on their bodies and they can die prematurely. We don’t want that outcome anytime soon.


4. Decide what is important. How many things are you planning to do on a particular day? Now determine what are the truly important things on that list. Decide to do only those items. Is it 1, 2, 3, or 5 things? It’s not five, okay?  One or two, and seldom three. Do NO more than three, you overachiever! 


5. Eat that Frog. According to Asian Efficiency and Brian Tracy author of Eat that Frog, there is one Most Important Task per day. Therefore, do that first. Then move on to the rest of the tasks. Eat that frog (ewh) first, then everything else is easy. 



I thought chemo-brain was making me forgetful and tired. Apparently, the use of Chemotherapy affects the memory. Healthline states “ChemoBrain is an inability to concentrate and a lack of focus.” Some people describe their thinking as foggy. I felt as if I were fighting my way through cotton, during the latter part of my treatments. Chemo brain symptoms lessened a few months after my treatments were complete.


6. Set a reminder. To deal with the forgetfulness, I began and continue to this day, setting my phone alarm for appointments, meetings and things I want to remember. That way, I won’t have a continuous ‘to do list’ loop running in my head! Additionally, I won’t ruminate about what needs to be done. (FYIThat’s what keeps us stressed out, ladies.)


7. Game on! Crossword puzzles, word games and puzzles help me focus and concentrate.


8. Get focused. DO NOT multitask, it lessens your attention for each item. It also takes 23 minutes to get back to the task you interrupted.


9. There’s no rush. Lastly, don’t beat yourself up for taking longer to do something when you used to do in a matter of seconds. We may not have the quickest response, but the response we give has years of experience backing it up. Take your time. The world can wait. You can play to your strength and have a little fun.


It’s important to know when to rest. (Says somebody who really doesn’t know when to rest). I’m a morning person, even though I may stay awake until one or two in the morning.  I know, I know. You figured it out, but I am still struggling.


If one doesn’t get enough sleep the body doesn’t have time to repair itself and the cortisol level can’t decrease. The brain takes a ‘bath’ while you sleep each night to get rid of the toxins, etc. When you don’t get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, the brain doesn’t get completely ‘cleaned’.


10. Get enough sleep. Going to bed earlier generally makes you healthier, happier, and running on all cylinders. Without proper rest, you are stressing your system and that risk can be insurmountable.


Ok, so #10 was a no brainer. But here are some ways to actually make it happen.

11. Stop all electronics at least an hour before we sleep.


12. Sleep in a dark room.


13. All electronics must be at least 5 feet away from us.


14. And no more Candy Crush, Word Chums, or Monopoly after 10pm. Oh, sorry, that’s me.



We know what to do, but we try to fool ourselves. We shouldn’t fall in love with something that is bad for us – that includes busyness, forgetfulness on purpose, the status of “burning the candle at both ends”, food, games or people!


Song Everybody plays the Fool
Healthline article on Chemo Brain
For the geeks who want to know more about sleep Why sleep

Rest well tonight.
Dr. Harriette

2 Replies to “14 Ways to Cope with Fatigue, Chemo Brain, Insomnia”

  1. Thanks for the reminders. Thanks for being my friend! Thank you for your honest insights. It has helped me to better understand a friend on the cancer recovery journey.

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