I would have written this post sooner, but I was too tired.
Merriam defines fatigue as “the state of being very tired: extreme weariness.” If you ask an acoustic neuroma survivor about fatigue there is a good chance that they will share a new appreciation for the word. We’ve all been exhausted in life, but there is something about a craniotomy that takes strength that is hard to regain. Yet it also brings out a strength we didn’t know we had.
Fatigue is a very familiar word for anyone who has had treatment for a brain tumor. We need naps. It’s hard to explain the feeling of such fatigue coming over you in the middle of the day that you HAVE to take a nap. Sometimes it is emphasized by a dry eye that will not be satisfied with artificial tears. Closing it is the only way to regain comfort for the remainder of the day. Sometimes it is a dizziness from overtaxing our vestibular (balance) system. Other times it is a matter of just being sick of that darn ringing in our ears and needing to escape it for a short time while unconscious. What used to be a ten minute cat nap is now an hour or two.
Fatigue is a recognized symptom of an AN, but not always discussed. There is an assumption that fatigue is caused by the surgery and recovery process but will go away when “healed.” However, it is frequently a long term or permanent state. It is intensified by drugs that often are required for lingering issues after treatment – pain and depression as examples. It is also caused by the extra work that the brain has to do to compensate for balance or hearing.
There are synonyms for fatigue. Burnout is one that is usually associated with burning the candle at both ends. Burnout for a brain tumor survivor may be from continually treading water and trying to regain one’s old self. It may be from trying to return to work or life having to adjust to new challenges.
Frazzle is another synonym, implying out of control or mentally scattered. That is also accurate for AN survivors as we attempt to sort out sounds if left single sided deaf. Where did a sound come from? Or what is the person in front of us saying when there is background music or noise. We can feel frazzled and feeling unbalanced from excessive movement.
Prostration is a word that I totally get now. Being powerless over the way that your body has removed control over when a good day will come or when you find yourself flat out on the ground either face down (prostrate) or face up with arms flailed to as if we are making a snow angel. Exhale. . . .
Antonyms exist for fatigue also. We do have days when we feel refreshed, and we appreciate them. We look at the puffy clouds against fall colors and inhale with a love for life and the people in our lives. We feel revitalized when we realize how little we now care about things that may have been enormous in our prior lives. We feel rested when we have a good night’s sleep without being awakened by a headache.
We have learned to live minute to minute. We have learned to take one step at a time. We have learned to live with fatigue and know when we have precious moments of rest and peace.
A common statement that I hear is “I don’t know how you do it.” Well, like with anything, one step at a time. One obstacle at a time that is overcome or adapted to. Although we have fatigue we also have a strong desire to squeeze every moment out of life.