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After cancer treatment, some individuals may experience thinking and memory problems, also known as chemo brain. It's not clear what causes chemo brain; however, some causes may include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and surgery.
Consequences of cancer treatment, such as low blood counts, fatigue, infection, menopause, poor nutrition and sleep issues, may also trigger symptoms. As a cancer survivor, you may be experiencing memory changes as a result of cancer treatment. Even though there's no clear definition of chemo brain, the medical community recognizes this is a problem that does occur.
Chemo brain symptoms can include:
These symptoms can begin during cancer treatment and continue for many months and sometimes years after treatment.
Here are a few ideas to help manage changes in memory:
Chemo brain can be frustrating and difficult to deal with emotionally and physically.
Remember that memory problems happen to everyone. Many times, it's best to be open and honest with others about your symptoms. Talk with friends and family members to suggest ways they can help you. If you're a survivor who has noticed memory changes, please share experiences through this blog.
Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.
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I am currently on chemo for treating rt Breast cancer, triple negative grade 3 stage 1....
From the first chemo session, my multi tasking and organizing abilities are diminished , word finding a problem ....hoping this will be better once chemo is over.
Last August, noticed tiny clear fluid from rt Breast in am....went for mammogram...diagnosed after ultrasound, repeat mammogram and core biopsy
Lumpectomy with clean margins and no axilla node involvement in Nov. , 4 sessions of chemo now and will be followed with 3 weeks of radiation.
I have read widely on Chemo brain, or Chemo Fog........prefer chemo fog as that implies it will lift at some point....plus am from the East coast of Canada and Fog does lift down here.....even if it takes a while....lol
It is very annoying to endure this condition as am usually sharp...important to keep a good sense of humour and not be too hard on oneself...it will pass!
My husband has esophogial cancer and has 6 weeks of radiation as well as weeks of chemo. He has all the symptoms of chemo brain that has been experienced by many. I didn't know what happening to him until I found this site. He also has another symptom. When he wakes up and says he sees people in the house. Has anyone had these issues as well??
My husband had tonsil cancer. Is free of cancer now, but is very irritable and very impatient and argumentive. Is this part of the chemo brain symptoms?
can some had thort cancer could have this
I am so mad right now, .............. Okay so last year i got cancer, went thru treatment. Since then i have lost.... No brain, it has left the building. No let me back up there a min. it's here. Just not working. No one told me why. Tell i see on T.V. a woman who is not able to remember what she was just talking about after having gone thru treatment, and they called it Chemo brain. I look it up on line. Right here on the freakin computer is everyone of my symptoms.. Why not tell me #$@% *#$@ That's me cussing mad.
I am a six year breast cancer, chemo, Tamoxifen and radiation treatment survivor. I am extremely delighted to be alive! For those of you experiencing "chemo brain", I want to verify that it exists, and requires continuous work and adaptation on your part, but your life goes on! I have had psychological testing and an MRI and been diagnosed with "mild cognitive impairment" caused by "left dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex" damage. This region is responsible for executive functions (decision making, planning, and memory) I also experience micro-tremors in my hands and reduction in fine motor skills. My personality changed as well. However, I live a very full and happy life! By doing a lot of research, talking to many doctors, being diligent, working hard, and coming up with my own adaptations to a variety of situations, I am able to be employed, run my own life (with a little help from my son), and learned who my true friends are. First, get diagnosed if possible, then accept yourself as you are. Next, take charge of yourself and your situation! Use the internet to do tons of research, play video games, read and write as much as possible, exercise, eat right, and get out an interact with people. Mainly,just learn to ADAPT and KEEP LIVING! Good luck!
Chemo brain did not start until almost two years after my last treatment..... at first I thought it was something else.
But now I guess it is the symptoms of chemo brain.
Problems remembering descriptive words, expressions, and more. It is somewhat frustrating, but at least I ow know why it is happening..... Good luck to all!
My friends husband is going though chemo for intestinal cancer. He has had a chemo treat
every other Monday since diagnosis (with a lapse last week due to an infection). For the last week, he has had the opposite of chemo brain - almost maniac behavior - rewashing towels that are clean, talking non-stop for several hours, cleaning/organizing/giving away extra food items, very short tempered with friends and
family. His behavior is boarderline manic. This behavior has escalated in the last week. Anyone experience this behavior as they or a loved one have gone through treatment?
I have chemo brain after 14 months of chrmo, but no cancer. My co-workers have made my life possible because of how kindly they have taken on my job responsibilities.The confusion is getting very bad. Thinking is a chore. There is no sleep.
my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer as well as a brain tumor last september and underwent brain surgery,they were only able to remove 95% of the tumor due to the fact it has rooted into the brain.he has been doing chemo and radiation up until last month and went for his 1st MRI today.as a result of this long&brave journey he has got chemo brain.lose of sleep,lose of words,processing,does not drive at night,just short distances,fatigue,anxiety,frustration,depression,he takes melatonin as a sleep aid,flaxseed capsules for the brain 2 times a day,loraxapam for his anxiety in the am.we joined the cancer group and found him a buddy,which help him understand and feel not alone,it was a great asset.positive thinking and alot of rest for quit a while and alot of support from friends and family and wonderful doctors and nurses.hoping for a blessing from up above that the worst is over,now we just have to take "one day at a time" Alot of love &support,understanding,patience is the best medicine,and never give up! Bless you all,may the force b with you! xoxo
I've been in & out of chemo for CLL for 5 years(32 very long days total "in the chair")& chemo brain has been the most difficult of many difficult side effects. I was/am paranoid about altzheimers due to family history so I got tested by a neuro psychiatrist(3+ hours tests session) which revealed 96 percentile IQ BUT 12 percentile short term memory processing! Bad news! But it did rule out altzheimers! This is the only test I've known to confirm chemo brain! Does validation help? Not sure-still adapting & learning how to carry intelligent conversations & hide the "blank" spots! Major challenge!
I was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer
in Feb 2010.After mastectomy/reconstruction &
8 months of treatment I feel really good apart from chemo brain.Best advice I can give is stay calm,try not to get angey or frustrated and do some brain exercises every
day.Hoping to go back to College after 26 years to do an MA in September.Chemo brain is manageable-hang in there.
I was diagnosed last January, 2010 with Stage 2 breast cancer and I turned 50 last year.. I had a lumpectomy, went thru 5 rounds of chemo. then 6 weeks of radiation therapy. At the same time, I just became the main caregiver for my 74 yr old mother with last stages of Alzheimer's Disease. It was a hard year, I had help and started hospice for my Mom. She just passed away last month, and I have to restart my life. My point is that I have chemobrain due to all the chemo and radiation, but it seems to have gotten worse. I went a few weeks of my body rejecting the Tamoxifen, nausea, and during that time I felt my mind and memory coming back. But since November, Im adjusted to tamoxifen, and the brain fog is terrible. I don't remember the day of my Mother's funeral at all. I've asked family members if I was even there! I'm supposed to be going back to work, but I'm very worried about this fog. It's debiliting. Im on depression meds, a sleeping pill Ambien, and still don't sleep much. I have to say Chemobrain is very frustrating! I just want my brain back. I used to have such a sharp memory, quick with numbers, memory of an elephant. So this way of being is very scary.
If you have a Dr. who amits to "chemo brain"you are lucky,when I got my medicalo records from my oncologist ,and read them ,I was fit to be tied to say the least.He made notes as if I was crazy and denied that could be the cause. Needless to say he is no longer my Dr.When my gereral Dr. could not find what was causing the problem I started a search on computer for syntoms and with the help ofv the friend who died found the chemo brain ones which totally fitand just knowing I wasn't going crazy helped.I take a high dose of Cymbalta,after trying several meds and it helps with the symtoms and lets me deal with life better .I have been on it for 5 years and I am finally getting to thepoint I can read a simple book and comprehend it again(most days).Dr.tried add meds(didn't work),had 4 MRI's (do have a brain in there)In have strange reactions to meds so have to be careful in what I take .I would have gone anywhere to get treated but all sites I went to advised they did not know the cause or the treatment so as my gen.Dr. advised "I have learned to live with it"but the hope is still there it will leave and I will be "NORMAL" someday.
I am a 12 year surviver of breast cancer .I did not take chemo but took Tomoxifin for 5 years ,my problems started after I came off it ,for a year I noticed problems at my job till it got so bad I was more or less given the choice to quit or be fired .I hid the problem pretty well I guess because I was just accused of being hateful,mean and hard to get along with, and no one semed to notice the other problems I had lost of memory,not reconizing peopleor remembering names loss of cognitive skills ,sleep problems etc.I also have strange medical problems that the Dr. can't find reasons for,benign position vertigo,Horners syndrome,cluster headaches to name a few.Being a police officer these are not things you can continue working with. I now am on disability,antidepressants,Tamoxifin also caused my thyroid to sut down shortly after surgery,but all together I am just glad to be alive.My friend was diagonosed with lump 1 year after me and she oped not to do any of the therapy after because of side effects and 8 years later the same cancer came back but on her bones and she spent a year and half in severe pain before she died mid-summer last year.I miss her very much as we were a suppot for each other but again I am glad to be alive and have my family around me and will deal with the other problems.Just don't give me anything to put up for you or ask me to remind you of anything,LOL . Belief in God has helped me more than anything.If you can laugh at yourself when you forget helps
I had chemotherapy treatments in 2007 due to breast cancer. I never had the best of memory but since chemo and radiation treatments the problems have been many. Sometimes when I'm driving to an appointment or even just out driving to run some errands, I totally forget where I'm headed, fortunately I do remember but i've actually had to stop the car and think about it already...scary! I've don't remember conversations my husband swears we've had, like plans for one thing or another,this too I may get flickers of the conversation after he tells me where we were when we discussed plans or what we were talking about at the time ect. Words don't come to me, I just can't think of the word I want. A little off the chemo brain subject...my hot flashes are unbearable at times, three years now... I'm fatigued I get a very tired and sore upper back by my shoulder area where I just need to sit down for fear of fainting( which I've never done). there is more... but I'm glad to be alive and there are survivers out there with alot worse off than me, I thank God every day for all my blessings, one of them being a very loving and supportive and sometimes frustrated husband..Your loved ones can be your best medicine, if there supportive and understanding. God Bless.
I've wanted mention a comment or two more to my earlier post......I wish to that it was great to have found this web site---a lot of good information. I have said prayers for all of you.
I am a caregiver to a survivor. My wife is exhibiting some of the symptoms of chemo brain i.e. "a very short fuse", sometimes having trouble continuing verbalizing a sentence. I have tried to gently to talk to about it, but she doesn't think there is problem. I know this is very frustrating for her, but it is very frustrating for me. Sometimes when I talk to her it is as if I'm talking a foreign lanuage to her.
I finished my chemo in Aug. of 2009. but frustration and depression has set in. my proffesion is a nurse, and I cannot hold down a job. I keep making the smallest mistakes, I cant remember names, medications, conversations. I have trouble concentrating. I cant remember how to spell the littlest word. I've been fired from one job and going to be fired from my recent job. I dont blame them for firing me, I get more upset and angry with myself.
My 36 year old son has had Lymphoma treated with chemo for 18 months. He then developed MDS and went to Duke for a stem cell transplant. The transplant has failed and he did receive chemo there also. He has had memory problems since the start in 2008 and we called it chemo brain without knowing the term even existed. This has been of great concern to him, he states that he hates not remembering things we did or he has had done. Sometimes it good to not remember. He now has Leukemia and has only a short time left. No more Chemo he said since the odds are 0-25% for remission again. He wants to feel good while he still has some time with his two girls ages 13 and 15.
i am a breast cancer survivior for 5 yrs, I still have chemo brain, i used to joke I'm doing good to get home to the right house every night. Now I just want mY OLD BRAIN BACK! I solid as a rock. I'm tired of this. I can't remember sooooo much, until I m told then I 24 to36 hrs It seems sorta like I do
I guess my chemo brain got to with the last post. I didn't talk about chemo brain much at all. Like most everyone else, I have almost all of the symptoms on the list. I don't remember what I've told people, where I'm supposed to be, am fatigued very easily, cry all the time etc. My husband and kids know about this and understand to a point. Between my lack of memory and fatigue I haven't found where I fit in and what I'm going to be when I grow up. I'm sure that God has a plan for me and I just have to wait for his direction.
It's great to find this site. I have been dealing with chemo brain big time. I was diagnosed with brain cancer and I really believe I had a form of the fog even before the chemo started. I've completed six doses of heavy-duty methotrexate and am now beginning a monthly regimen. The docs don't know how long I will have to keep coming back. Mine is a 5 hour drive for four days of treatment and has been every other week until now. I used to be a very productive go-to person; an excellent speller, fantastic memory, etc. I am an RN who obviously cannot work - would you want me to be your nurse. I have a hard enough time with my own meds :-) I can no longer, can't write, although I can finally sign my name somewhere close to my signature. We moved a year ago, which meant leaving all my old friends and support system. I have made some new friends here, but I still feel pretty alone. Feeling sooooo foggy makes me uncomfortable driving. I need a shopping buddy - other than my husband. I don't have anything profound to say but it feels good to say it to someone who understands. God Bless us all.
I have Chemo brain and it's very scary.Im a nurse,but not working at this time. I am 48, I find myself asking the same questions over and over. I write things down so I can keep up with the world around me. I can't read for long period of time because I forget want I just read. The dr. stated this should go away, but its scary living in a world were you forget daily. I talk to my family anf friends about this so they can understand if I aske them the same questions the next day or maybe the same day. Its from the chemo. They all understand. The fight we fight to survive cancer then have to live with some many side effects of the medication. Yes, I am happy to be a survivor. But its hard not being the person I used to be. I am taking this one day at a time. Sometimes one hour at a time. I am so happy to have found this blog and received some much information on chemo brain and I am not along.
I am on a monthly dose of Chemo for my brain cancer diagnosis. Have beenn for 8 months. The days I am taking my monthly, five day drug regimen are the days when my Chemo brain kicks in - BIG TIME. I fought it for months but I have found that the more tired I am, the worse my symptoms are. SO - I take a lot of naps those five days when I am dosing. Other than those days, I seem to have the normal brain of an active 65 year old.
Wow its good to read all these posts about the side effects of chemotherapy. I am about 1/3 the way through my chemo and I fear I am already experiencing some chemo brain symptoms. I had a weak memory before my cancer diagnosis, and now I can't seem to focus on simple bookkeeping or even reading a book for any length of time...like my brain has no power left in it. Considering my career involves extensive reading and number crunching I am worried that I will no longer be able to do my work....and that things will only get worse in the months of treatment ahead, and then years of hormonal treatment recommended. So how does a young single mom cancer survivor survive when making a living becomes so difficult? There sure is more to surviving cancer than just getting healed up after surgery. I lost my breasts, then my hair, and now my mind and my sanity are questionable as well. Thank goodness for good friends, patient co-workers and excellent health professionals...with all their help and support hopefully I can survive chemo brain too!
One day i was total lost dit not know for a few moments where i have has park my car.From chemo therapy my memory was good,after three month`s on hormone therapy i experience panic attach,But it is only for about 5 min.We as cancer survivors went through a difficult time in our life from all the teatments.My opinion i think it is stress.
I am beginning to think that I may have been affected by chemo brain? I had both radiation and chemo for islet cell cancer of the pancreas, that ended in Dec. of 2009.
By July of that year I no longer could write poetry, by Nov. I no longer could compose prose.
By April of 2010 my fatigue increased my participation began taking a back step from participation. 3 months ago my short term memory began to become almost nil. The past two moths I've been doing things like putting coffee grounds in water resovoir and being confused at what I'm doing.
My neurologist took an MRI and said there was no hydrocephalus or additional brain tuber growth. Is it likely that I'm facing chemo brain?
I am so thankful that I came across this blog about "chemo brain". My husband has been through about 3 years off and on, with chemo. He recently has had confusion about our conversations and feeling disorganized.
Due to some family history, we were both concerned about dementia. Now I know his symptoms are chemo brain. Thanks to all for sharing your experiences. He gets so frustrated sometimes and I know it is partly because he thinks he is getting dementia like his sisters. Now I can encourage him and maybe he will be less depressed. Prayers to all.
I'm wondering about chemo brain in someone who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's? Does it exacerbate dementia that is already present? And will it hasten Alzheimer's?
Nice to see I have 10 of the 13 symptoms. I was told it could happen; but have always been especially sharp with a great memory. NOT now, 5 months out of chemo for testicular cancer and my memory is nowhere in sight.
Especially troublilng today as I totally blanked for words and to recall my own report while on the witness stand in court. I work as a police detective, and being able to remember details is especially important in my day to day job.
Frustrated does not even begin to describe it.
Hello, this is a very hard stage to bear right now, i am a caregive & significant other to my fiance who has end stage kidney cancer.. He has taken off his chemo treatment Torisel and has been off this for 8 months now due to severe Toxcity and major complications due to this chemo. He has been off all treatments since the chemo was stopped in Jan this yr.. I have noticed the man i love go thru four sets of personality changes and very eratic behavior which started about 6 weeks ago.. I don't know if this is chemo brain or this cancer has metastasized to his brain.. I have seen a very quiet man start out being very verbal about his emotions, and talk where he was so very quiet and kept all emotions in to a loving man and then this wonderful giving man who took care of me while i was sick and took me to the doctors and wanted to know about everything about my medical issues, He was so concerned and seem that he was the man i have been waiting to see all my life.. He now is a raving lunatic with mood changes that turn on and off like a light swith.. He is so angry with me all the time, i can't do anything without mean, cruel, comments.. This has become an issue that has me feeling like i have no clue who this man is.. I am going to discuss with my doctor tomorrow and the oncologist too.. He needs help and nedes this out in the open as others are seeing a man yelling so loud and angry at the drop of a hat.. I need help can anyone help me with any other suggestions.. Thank
I recently wrote something on the "Living with fatigue" blog, but this "chemo brain" blog is probably more appropriate. When I was diagnosed with stage 2 hormone-sensitive breast cancer several months ago, I read a book about the disease my oncologist recommended, asked a gazillion questions of everyone who was poking and prodding, and was pretty well prepared for treatments. But I was not prepared for the fatigue and extreme difficulty concentrating that hit me about halfway through radiation therapy and that continues still, almost 3 months post-therapy. The most difficult problem is my demanding and often stressful job. My co-workers have been wonderfully supportive, but deadlines and long-term projects are catching up with me and every day is "emergency" mode--and here I am still running on about half-battery. I can't believe it took me so long to realize how critical the situation has become -- talk about fuzzy thinking! And my co-workers will be running out of patience, if they haven't already. I'm in the process of hiring some short-term help at work, so this too shall pass, but I wish I'd been more knowledgeable so I could have made better plans for my professional responsibilities during AND AFTER treatment. There's another breast-cancer survivor in my office, but she doesn't remember having any of these chemo brain symptoms. This scares me. Am I going to be able to hold on to my job?????
I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, had a lumpectomy, and the cancer is gone. But I'm scheduled for chemo, and have noted this side effect. It is very worrisome to me, because I am already experiencing these symptoms - and it's called 'mommy brain'. I'm not joking either....I'm very concerned that my memory and lack of concentration will go from bad to worse. What are our options...will someone say if this gets better.
My mom, now 78, was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer Aug '09. She had chemo and then radiation. She also had preventative radiation to the brain and that was completed 2 months ago. She has memory problems but her biggest issue is fatigue. Prior to and even during treatment, she did not suffer from fatigue. She is very upset and wonders when if ever she'll get her energy back. Recent loss of appetite and nausea (symptoms she didn't have during treatment) are now a factor. Her oncologist told her to see her family doctor, which she has an appt for but I was wondering if anyone had similar experiences?
While my brain disfunction isn't as bad as some, it is still prevalent enough for it to be bothersome. For me the demands of my profession and the issues I have in concentrating are always at odds. This goes beyond just being glad I'm alive. Sure I am. Would go thru treatment again to extend my life but the reality is we have day to day lives to get thru and just being glad I have that day doesn't make it easy. It is important that we not only acknowledge that chemo brain is real but the difficulties that can present themselves in our day to day lives. Telling me to just be glad I'm alive doesn't help me when I can't remember where I have put something. These frustrations are real. I'm a big believer in forgiving myself and remembering to breathe but my quality of life is important. If we only say that just being glad to be here is enough, how will we ever put pressure on the medical field to help us treat this affliction?
Chemo for stage IIIa colon cancer ended 5 months ago and I am still having some cognitive problems. Frequently I cannot remember the correct word, or names of acquaintances, or things people tell me. This last one is a problem. I am getting really tired of hearing one of my friends (with whom I talk almost daily) say "come on, Susan, we just talked about that yesterday," or my significant other will get annoyed that I sometimes don't remember times or arrangements we made. Times like these I find myself thinking angrily that I should just stop talking to them. Not a good situation, but I feel like I am copping out if I say anything about chemo brain. My memory was not really great to begin with (possibly due to nasty drugs taken for rheumatoid arthritis for the past 30 years), and I'm 62 with friends who joke about having CRS. I feel stuck with this problem and see no reasonable solution. Anyone have experience with this kind of teasing?
I was glad to read about Chemo Brain because I have been experiencing many of these symptoms and didn't know why it was happening. At least I now have a name for it and hopes that it will go away some time in the future.
This information is so vital to chemo survivors. I had radical chemo in 2003 and I still have chemo brain from time to time, however, I am alive. I spent three hours recently searching for an outside restaurant that I so enjoyed some time ago. I was searching diligently in Austin, TX when I spoke the name of the restaurant Jardim America. Speaking the name made me realize that the restaurant was in Jardim America in the city of Sao Paulo, S.P. Brasil where I lived for many years. I was alone in my search so I didn't feel so bad about my three hour search. Chemo Brain still grabs me after seven years. But I am alive and loving my life.
I was diagnosed with stage II ductal ca two years ago. Had a mastectomy, AC, taxol,herceptin (as a study participant) and somewhere in there, 12 weeks of rad. Alot of stuff right? then attempted reconstruction. After all that was said and done, 4 surgeries in 2 years. When I worked, I worked full time. As a multi-tasker, highly functional, passionate healthcare provider, chemo brain was and still is the most difficult side effect. I too have difficulty finding my lists. The icon ended on the "enter passord here" space and I could not remember it having entered it a million times before. It is distressing to me. Writing papers replaced by word finding, passion replaced by fatigue, obsessed with paying bills on-time to finding unopened bills laying between magazines by my mailbox. Thinking "I swear I paid that one on-time". A secret I share with few. I'm supposed to the writer, full-time employee and the achiever. I've educated cancer patients and people in the community. Having chemo brain is like having a missing typewriter key or a bum key on a keyboard. You strike it but it doesn't work. Anesthesia, chemo, radiation, meds, fatigue, nutrition deficits, delayed stress response, post traumatic stress disorders and hormone imbalance are just a few blows to our very sensitive cellular make ups. Chemo brain is excusable and note worthy. Looking at survivor- and thrivor-ship education and support should identify a new set of educational needs not yet discovered
Thanks for sharing your experiences with Chemo Brain. Many of you have mentioned how concerned you are that the symptoms may get worse. Normally, cognitive changes as a result of cancer treatment do not progress in the same way that dementia does. The symptoms are real and frustrating that is certain; so ask questions of your cancer doctor if you notice that your symptoms are not getting better. For women being treated for breast cancer, many times the combination of chemotherapy and hormone therapy together create a more significant problem with memory and cognitive changes. Estrogen plays a key role in memory and cognition, so changes in the normal levels that your body is producing can also cause additional symptoms.
A book that you might find helpful on this topic by Dan Silverman, MD, PhD, and Idelle Davidson, Titled -Your Brain After Chemo: A Practical Guide to Lifting the Fog and Getting Back Your Focus (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2009).
I wish that someone would have informed me about the cognitive impairment risks before giving me dose-dense chemo for stage 2 breast cancer. I am 5 years out from treatment. It takes me 4 times longer to write because i was left with writing dyslexia. I have every symptom mentioned in the above description. I am now 49. My family gets angry with me...they do not understand. My life goals have changed. If it wasn't bad enough to lose my mental capacity...i was physically injured in an automobile accident which wiped out my physical capabilities as well. I had many dreams, goals and aspirations as a business proprietor, but i can hardly extrapolate my way out of a paper sack now! My dreams are shattered. I lost my job. I am still young, but I can hardly organize my thoughts enough to do some of the simplest tasks. My kids knew me as superwoman. I wonder if this debilitating condition is going to progress to clinical dementia. I am afraid to get cognitive testing again. 3 yrs. ago, the neuropsyc doctor called me a retard and was irritated that i was an hour late for the appointment...when i could have sworn that i had the correct time. At least i knew the right time the day before. How can i explain that and sound sane? We really need some medical folks to look into this "over-sight" and "understated" major side-effect so that we can make informed decisions about our treatment options. I feel like an empty shell of the person i used to be. But great, no can
I completed chemo for Stage 3 fallopian tube cancer in December 07. Over 2 years later, I'm still fumbling around for words, and forget where I put my lists. When I bought an Apple phone, I discovered there's an app for that!! Believe it or not, I use an app called "notes" which comes free with the phone.
I completed 12 chemo treatments for stage III colon cancer a year ago and continue to be frustrated by chemo brain. It is, indeed, very real. In the meantime, I find my greatest asset is a circle of friends and family who willingly "fill in the blanks" for me when i'm stranded for words...which is too often!!! That and a sense of humor go a long way. Doesn't do much for the mess that needs sorting on my desk, or feeling like the absent minded professor (i was a multi-tasker before the term was coined). But as several have already said, i'm just happy to be alive and simply try to enjoy each day. Lists do help with the basics. But it is also nice to simply "be". "Accomplishments" can be quite overrated.
Wow! Thank you for this information! This is EXACTLY what is happening to my mother-in-law. Her cancer team has her sons convinced there is NO medical reason for her confusion, and she is just acting to get people to leave her alone. What I see is not acting. She is frustrated herself that she cannot carry on a conversation or think of words to explain what she wants.
It was HER idea to give power of attorney to my husband so he could make sure her bills get paid since she can no longer remember to do that. She told her whole family, so everyone was aware this was the plan. A week later, when the paperwork was going to be signed, she had no recollection of this and didn't even seem to grasp the concept of POA. It took 15 minutes to get her signature because she could not even remember HOW to sign her name. At first, she just drew a spiral on the paper. Then, while being talked through it, she was writing on letter on top on the other instead of moving her hand across the page as she wrote. We got over this hurdle, then she would get another 3 letters on the paper, then completely forget what she was doing. Her doctors said it is nothing clinical, she is just depressed. Firstly, I thought depression IS clinical, especially in cases of extreme illness. Secondly, these sure seem like actual brain disfunction more than depression. We could easily have told the notary that she had a stroke, and I'm sure they would have believed us. I appreciate this info to fight for her with.
Good article. Julia, I went online to UClA and only saw their book, The Memory Bible listed. Is there something else that you used?
Taking a weekly stretching and relaxation class at my local fitness center has helped me greatly. I nap in the afternoon almost every day for an hour or so and try to exercise at least 3 times a week. Physical exercise increases the blood flow to the brain as well as to the rest of the body and that helps greatly with cognitive function for anyone, not just chemo patients. I have had 5 of 6 chemo infusions and fatigue is the most difficult side effect and one that affects my brain as well as the rest of my body.
Thankfully Chemo Brain, like menopause, is more widely addressed - and accepted - than in the past. No, we're not going crazy, even though it feels like it many days, and certainly those near and dear to us share similar concerns. But I can only imagine the frustration cancer patients suffered in silence for this annoying, frightening, and at times debilitating side effect all these years. As if the cancer diagnosis and surgery is not enough! A newly published book, YOUR BRAIN AFTER CHEMO, shares similar insights that I found very helpful. In spite of lost thoughts, words, and keys, being 'here' is all that ultimately matters.
This is the first article I've seen pertaining to chemo brain. Our oncologist mentioned it may happen, but never what might happen.
Thanks for the article.
Ah yes, chemo brain . . . I experienced a couple of the worst arguments ever in my 30+ years of marriage to my very best friend because I had absolutely NO memory of some plans/discussions we apparently had. As an educator, I read everything I can get my hands on to better understand my cancer and the treatments involved. I felt my husband didn't believe me when I tried to explain chemo brain to him. Fortunately, by chance, while driving one day he tuned into a program about chemo brain and realized the medical community does recognize it. The scariest instance related to chemo brain was walking one night and totally feeling "lost". Somehow, deep in thought, I turned down a street I should have recognized but didn't. Panic set in for a few minutes while I tried to get my bearings. Finally realized where I was and continued on my way. I agree whole-heartedly with the suggestions for regular exercise(mind AND body), proper diet, and getting enough sleep. Positive attitude and sense of humor helps too!
I had trouble remembering the words for common things, but usually once I remember them they stick. I have lost the ability to do the accounting for my business and other math and organization related tasks. My short term memory stinks. I can't remember where I put things. One thing that helps are a day calendar to write down everything, making lists and leaving myself notes. I hope it gets better.
I am glad that the medical feild is now saying chemo-brain is real as a few years ago they didnt. I am a two year stage 3b lung cancer survivor and I do have memory trouble, ect. But I am alive. Also numbness, and pain in your hands and feet sounds like neuropathy ask your doctor! I am on a drug that helps with it.
it's been 2 years since I finished the 4 ac, and even now I have trouble putting words together. Chemo brain, chemo fog, chemotherapy induced cognitive difficiency syndrome!!!!whatever you call it, I am convinced I lost some neurons. I really do think it's some kind of brain damage. More research is needed.
Maybe it's some king of brain trauma, because it did
get better after the first year ( I was a babbling fool).
In reading all prior comments, my impression is 'J' that you are indeed depressed. My cancer was diagnosed in Stage IV, so please don't wish for terminal cancer! Believe me, you don't want it. In spite of the fact I've always been an optimist, there is a pervading sense of 'why bother?" I am on chemo as a last ditch effort to save my life; in reality, just buy me some time. Yes, I cry, I have memory problems, I seem to be more disorganized, and lots of yukky physical symptoms, not to mention pain, but it is a glorious spring day outside and I'm well enough off to enjoy it. In other words, in spite of what I'm going through, I'm glad to be alive. I really do understand how you feel. Have you talked to your doctor or a therapist? Please do. Under any circumstances, life is too short to allow yourself to suffer this unhappiness.
I agree with Reginald, and I highly recommend a program started at UCLA called Brain Fitness. I am receiving brain therapy to keep my mind flexible the same way I received physical therapy when I injuried my knee doing sports. There is something you can do, and it goes well beyond cross word puzzles. It's fun, it's stimulating, and my insurance BC/BS FL covers it the same way they cover physical therapy.
I think with the proper diet, exercising, and resting at night is key factors to increase the brain normal functions for a healthier life style.
My last chemo treatment was 2/06. A lot (not good) has happened in my life since being diagnosed. I have failed in how sharp I used to be and have become deeper in depression. My short-term memory is a challenge and some long-term memory as well. I get frustrated with doing puzzles because I cannot concentrate to exercise my brain. Seems like a downward spiral. I sometimes wish that the cancer would have been terminal, as the way I feel now seems like a slow death.
I didn't know there was a name for this. I have trouble finding the "right word" all the time. I feel stupid. Also, I find myself going from doing one thing to another or if I go downstairs to do something I see something else that I should do forgetting what I came down in the first place. I finished chemo in Oct. '09. I also have nerve problems in my fingers, sometimes in my feet from the drug Taxol. Even drying my hands on a towel hurts my fingers. They say it might stay and it might go away. Really sucks.
How id you get to be a 2 time ovarian survivor...
I am a 15 yr. lung cancer survivor but my daughter has ovarian cancer whose tumor index has gone from 14 to 39... Are you a Mayo patient???
All of these symptoms can happen and they do linger. However, recognizing them is the best method of learning to deal with them. The suggestions offered are excellent and they work! As a two-time ovarian cancer survivor, I can testify to that! Thank you.
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