Dealing with the effects of fatigue

Fatigue can have a big impact on your daily life, and make activities like household tasks, driving or seeing friends and family harder to do.

Work and money

Having fatigue can make work difficult. For example, you may not be able to concentrate properly, or may struggle to travel into work. Talk to them about changes they can make so you can carry on working. This will depend on the kind of job you have, but might include:

  • working part time
  • a flexible start or finish time
  • changing your duties
  • taking more breaks
  • working from a different place.

If fatigue is affecting your work, it can impact on your finances. For example, you might find that you need to work part time or take a few months off work. It’s important to try to deal with any money issues so that they don’t become something you worry about.

There is lots of help available. For example, Macmillan Cancer Support and Citizens Advice give expert information and advice on financial matters and benefits. Read more about dealing with work and money when you have pancreatic cancer.

“I’m fortunate that my colleagues understand and support me throughout the day, as I still have to have a rest in the work’s first aid room every morning – without that I couldn’t manage.”

“The fatigue made working full-time difficult so I had to work flexibly and schedule hours over 7 days to allow for rest periods.”

Driving

It may not be safe for you to drive if you feel tired or sleepy. Some medicines or treatments can make you tired and affect your driving. You must tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), or the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) if you live in Northern Ireland, about your cancer if:

  • your cancer affects your driving or
  • the side effects of your medicine could affect your driving or
  • your doctor says you may not be fit to drive.

Ask your doctor whether your cancer or treatment will affect your driving. You can find out more at gov.uk, or at nidirect if you live in Northern Ireland. You may need to tell your insurance company as well.

Household tasks

Tasks like cooking, cleaning and shopping can use up a lot of energy. Try to spread these tasks out over the week, and work out which is most important and needs doing soonest. Don’t use up all your energy on household tasks so that you have no energy left for things you enjoy.

What can I do?

  • Ask family and friends to help with household tasks. They can be a big help and you might find they like helping.
  • An occupational therapist (OT) can help you find ways to do household tasks more easily.
  • Try online shopping, or phone or mail order delivery services rather than going out to the shops.
  • Use ready-made meals, or make large amounts when you do cook, and freeze portions for future meals.
  • Use things that can save energy when you are cooking. For example, use a food processor to chop vegetables, or buy prepared food such as chopped vegetables and grated cheese.
  • Try energy saving things, like sitting down when you dress, shower or prepare food. OTs can provide stools for this.
  • Drying yourself can use a lot of energy. Wrap up in a towelling dressing gown instead.
  • Before you start any task, make sure you have everything you need ready, rather than having to go backwards and forwards to get things.
  • If you can afford it, employ a cleaner or gardener.
  • Macmillan Cancer Support or other local charities may have volunteers who can help with shopping, transport and other practical tasks.

“Others want to help – just ask. There is no shame in asking, and it’s frustrating for your loved ones watching you struggle. Take all the help you can.”

Seeing friends and family

Seeing friends and family can be important. They may provide some normality and distraction from the cancer and fatigue. They can also be a big support. But fatigue can affect your social life. For example, you might get tired very quickly, or find it difficult to go out to see people.

What can I do?

  • Plan your time so that you see people when you have more energy.
  • Be honest with people (and yourself) about what you can manage. They will understand.
  • People may worry about tiring you out, so tell them what would work for you.
  • If you find going out tiring, ask friends and family to visit you at home.
  • If you find it tiring to see people in person, you could have short phone conversations, send text messages, or use social media. You could set up an email or WhatsApp group to update several people at the same time.
  • Plan activities that you can do with children while sitting down, such as crafts, jigsaws or reading.
  • Talk to your medical team about any big events, such as weddings. They may be able to make temporary changes to your medicine to allow you to go to them more easily.

“When my partner was on chemo we soon worked out what his better days would be and this helped us plan ahead. Friends were more than happy to fall in with this.”

“I didn’t have the energy to see friends, or travel far. I found it best to acknowledge it and don’t fight it.”

Speak to our nurses

If you have any questions about pancreatic cancer and fatigue, speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

Speak to our nurses

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse


  • How can I get help at work or with my finances?
  • Can an occupational therapist help me with household tasks?
  • Is it safe for me to drive?
  • What support is available locally to help me cope with my cancer and fatigue?

Updated October 2022

To be reviewed October 2025