How tired do you get with radiotherapy?

Hi everyone

I am just about to start radiotherapy and have heard all sorts about its side effects. My job is quite demanding and I have a two hour each way commute. I would appreciate any advice from people who have had radiotherapy and to find out what to expect.


Hi Cathy

I had 5 weeks of radiotherapy and found towards the end I got very weary in an afternoon. I finished them on 11th February and still feel very tired but it’s getting better. Other than than I was fine - got a bit burnt the last week but that soon settled.

You are very brave still going to work - I finished work last June and don’t think I would have worked through chemo and radiotherapy. Have just started Herceptin and hope to go back to work end of May/beginning of June.

Best of luck

Love Liz xx

Hi Cathy

I think it depends on how much you’re actually having and also whether you’ve had chemotherapy beforehand.

The fatigue can be one area and some people also can have problems with their skin (being tender or pink etc) but I think this depends on the type of skin you have. I’ve had 3 separate lots of radiotherapy (one to my breast and underarm area, then to the middle of my spine and the last one was the base of my spine and my neck). By far the last one gave me a lot of fatigue but I had a much stronger blast this time round.

I think, like a lot of things, we are all different and respond in different ways. When you go to get marked up they should do an assessment meeting where they’ll talk about various creams, shower or bath gels, etc. and what side effects you may have.

I too had a 2 hour round journey and this also can add to the fatigue.

Breast Cancer Care also do a booklet on radiotherapy.

Good luck


Hiya cathy
Is your 2 hour commute to work or to your appointment. I had 26 sessions and by the end found it all quite tiring as sleep was a bit uncomfy but I did burn a bit. Actually had more problems two weeks after treatment finished when bad burns appeared. Just try and rest when you can and if anyone offers help accept it, I would not have been able to drive to my appts during the last week and was thankful for help. Try and keep yourself well hydrated as I think that helps. It will go quicker than you think and just keep splashing on the aqueous cream at least three times a day
Best wishes and let us know how you get on

Hi Hilary

I have about an hour’s trip to the hospital, then return home, then work is a two hour commute so four hours travel before starting work! I could work half a day, but my job involves using my right arm (which is my radiotherapy side) constantly. I have very fair skin which burns easily in the sun - don’t know if that is relevant? My boss is being really thoughtful and says its up to me, so I do have the choice, but don’t want to seem like I’m skiving off


Hi Cathy,
I worked through rads, didn’t have your commute though! I found, on occasion (and there seemed no reason for it) that I was exhausted, I can’t think of another way to describe it…I could have cried with the tiredness…I tried to get all my appointments for late afternoon/evening so I could sleep it off overnight…but with that journey…I’d consider morning appointments and the rest of that day off…and finally, I’m very fair and didn’t burn too badly, I don’t think there is that much of a link there
anyway hon…good luck

Hi Cathy - just to add to my comments above - my hospital appointment was only 10 minutes away on a good day so I think if I were you I would have time off work in the latter stages.

Liz xx

You wont be skiving if you take the time off.You will need to rest and try to get really fit before you go back.That amount of travelling sounds horrendous.If you do get sore you wont want to wear a bra all the time and constant moving your arm wont help.I think you are a very brave lady to even consider working through but my advice would be to be kind to yourself.There will be time for work afterwards.Good luck Valx

Hi Val

Yes my journey is fairly lengthy. I love the job, its in a big teaching hospital and is brilliant. I have only been there since November so they have drawn the short straw with me!! I wear a fairly see thru tunic to work so going braless is not an option unless I want to scare off my patients!! I think from what I have read, I am going to give myself time off. Why is it we feel guilty about having time off? It’s not as though I have a cold, I have breast cancer yet I the martyr in me wants to show everyone I can do it!! Any psychiatrists out there???


Hi cathy

The information sheet on radiotherapy, which Pinkdove referred to above can be found by following the link below:-

I hope you find this helpful.

Kind regards

BCC Facilitator

Hi Cathy,i too was wondering the same thing about work as i am due to start radiotherapy tomorrow for 18 sessions.I had 6 weeks off work for the op and recovery and have now been back to work for 2 weeks but feeling so guilty about going off sick again!! Just will find it so hard to do radiotherapy,the hours at work and still be home in time for the kids.What a dilema.Ironic thing is you can make yourself feel ill worrying about it !!! GILL

Hi Cathy

I read this thread and though u sound just like me. I apologised to my immediate boss over the timing of finding my lump cos someone in our office was off with the flu! My boss is fantastic and told me that the main thing is that I take whatever time is needed to get better. I had WLE on Friday 25th Jan took 2 weeks off and went back to work on Friday 8th Feb - basically took 2 weeks off. I am determined to get on with life with as little disruption as possible. I am now working 8-2ish and then going for rads.

Have taken a couple of days off this week but that was more due to my son being in a car accident on Wednesday night … the usual teenage scenario, broken wrist, scrapped car & a lend of cash from the bank of mother to pay the recovery truck!

I have decided that I can deal with cancer and work and going to my friend’s wedding but I want to switch off a couple of other aspects of life … I am putting my 18 yr old on Ebay next week :slight_smile:

This just highlights the problems we face!! Oh if it was that simple to sell off the stroppy teenagers. - what a huge problem they are!! This is the dilemma we face. On the one hand, we have all our healthcare workers etc telling us to take it easy, rest when possible, have as little stress as you can etc etc to. On the other hand, life goes on and if you are like Lilacbushes and myself , we have the undeniably difficult species called “Teenagers” to deal with. Where or where in the patient leaflets and patient information guidelines are these awkward specimens listed? and where do they show us how to list them on ebay and get a good price? I for one would be happy with 99p as long as the postage covered the costs. As he eats his own weight everday, that should be quite lucrative!!


Hi Cathy

Have you definately decided to take time off?

I too work in healthcare (am a nurse) and I originally planned to work thro rads on reduced hours - but my mum died just before it started so there was no way I could continue working so I took the month off I had rads. I got tired in my 3rd week but in my 4th was ok - so no rhyme nor reason there. I started back phased return the day after rads finished and that was nearly 3 weeks ago. My skin got very red towards the end, but we actually keep ‘cooking’ for up to 2 weeks after rads is c omplete so it was not until after they finished that my skin actually broke down. I certainly could not have worked full time during this time as wearing a bra was painful - even with cream and gel dressings etc.

Its up to you but you certainly would not be skiving taking the time off - far from it. Think of yourself and not your work - you will get no medals for wearing yourself out.

Take care

HI Fiona

How awful that your mum died throughout all this. I guess that because of your own health problems you just had to get on with it. My mum died whilst my son was going through his treatment for cancer as a baby. At the time, there was some much going on, that her death was just something else to be added to the list to cope with. It is only many years on, that I can grieve for her properly. As for going back to work, like you, I have a very stenuous job and I am not going to be some martyr and go back when I am feeling whacked. I am going to take up their offer and go back when I am feeling fit - that may be some time!!!. I think like you. No medals for returning too soon and as I have had bits chopped off my chest, not a lot of room now for said medals!! Take care


Hi aagain Cathy

Glad you have decided to take the time off. Like you, I dont have much to put medals on either!!

I was dx in July and mum was admitted to hospital during my first chemo end of July - she never got out of hospital again but her death was still sudden. Yes I cried when she died and at the funeral, but there have been very few tears since so I know I have not grieved for her yet. As you say, as with you, there has been so much else going on that you just ‘get on with it as best you can at the time’. With everything that has happened to me over the last 2 years, I am now receiving counselling/therapy which I hope is going to help. I am now learning that my way of bottling things up, and not talking about things, and just getting on with it - has done me no favours whatsoever over the years so I have a lot to sort out. I hope I can grieve properly for mum one day soon, cos at the moment I feel guilty for not - altho I know thats wrong too.

I am a kids nurse and out of pure interest I just wander and hope that your son is fit and well. Dont want to be nosey and please dont tell me if you dont want to - but hope he is and i have not put my foot in it.

Take care

Hi Fiona

Thanks for asking about my son. He had a Wilm’s tumour dx at 13mths. It was stage 1 and had nephrectomy, then a few months later, it recurred, so chemo, rads and surgery. He is now 16 and very well. I envy you being a childrens nurse. I decided 10 years ago to change career and started on project 2000 on child branch. I managed two years but my mum had died recently and my son had just finished treatment and looking back, it was far too son to embark on something so strenuous, so I packed it in, always telling myself I would return, but never did. It is one of the major regrets of my life, by heyho. I really loved my time on the wards,found that the parents were by far the most difficult thing to deal with, but could empathise with them well. What area do you work in?


Good morning Cathy

So glad your son is a healthy 16 year old - must have been awful for you at the time. I have always been empathic with parents but my own daughter, 2 years ago, at 12 years old fell ill with pneumococcal septicaemia and pneumonia - she was in icu for 6 days, ventilated, inotropes, chest drains and the works and was in hospital for 7 weeks total - it was a complete shock as she was a normal healthy girl before then - so I too can empathise much more with parents now. I work in the high dependecy unit in the kids hospital here, so can be difficult - but much more happy times than sad. The way kids bounce back never ceases to amaze me!

Shame you had to give up your child branch - but it sounds like you couldnt have completed it. What area do you work in now?

I am off to do some painting now then head for the gym later.

Speak to you later
Have a good day

I totally agree that it’s a fine balance between doing what the heath professionals say - ie get some rest, don’t get stressed etc etc … and actually living your life. I think that I can cope with cancer no problem at all if the other bits of life would just flow along nicely without me having to get involved. My work is brilliant and I can literally stand up at any time and say I am going home - couldn’t wish for better. They have also organised transport for me to go for my rads so I’m not stuck with NHS patient transport.

I find it’s the little things that cause the most hassle - like if I need to get to the bank to pay money in, I used to do such stuff on a Friday afternoon when I had an early finish from work but now I can’t do that cos I’m at rads.

With regards to the ebay selling of teenagers Cathy - I would happily pay the postage costs myself cos inthe long run I think I would save more than I spent. Obviously I will not be accepting a return and refund if they find him not to be what they wanted.

Hi All - do you think I could put my 23 and 21 year olds on Ebay then? ! Think the teenage years stretch beyond 19 these days !

I am still very weary and tired from all the treatment and would love some time on my own.

They both come home every weekend and don’t do a thing. They argue - especially with their dad. They don’t do a thing. Can’t even put their dishes in the dishwasher and never make a meal. It just puts stress on me I can honestly say that since last June when I had my op but how do you say that to them ? They moan if the cupboard isn’t full of rubbish for them to eat too ! Costs a bomb. The younger one is out most nights she’s home, often not returning until 4 in the morning and then makes a noise getting to bed.

Liz xx