Did you have chemotherapy as part of your “cancer cure”? You might have chemo brain. ACK!!
While some of the medical field still argues that chemotherapy can cause such a problem, others have finally agreed with those of us who suffer from it. Some doctors only call it Chemo Brain if it never goes away or doesn’t get better with time.
Symptoms of Chemo brain
If you are experiencing these types of problems, you may be experiencing chemo brain, and you are not alone (I’m a long term sufferer):
- Memory loss
- Trouble paying attention
- Trouble finding the right word
- Difficulty with new learning
- Difficulty managing daily activities
People often notice these problems during chemotherapy treatment. Within one year of treatment, many people find these symptoms greatly improve or no longer exist. However, for some people, chemo brain can continue for years following completion of treatment. Approximately 20–30% of people who undergo chemotherapy experience some level of post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment. Some experts say that having cancer alone and a few other issues that come with battling cancer, can cause this problem, not just chemo. Hormones can also play a big role in producing cognitive impairment. Pair Chemo brain with hormones and wait…what was I saying?
Are you still there? You didn’t wander off did you?
Here are some tips for combating chemobrain: ( taken fromCancerCare’s Chemobrain Information Series )
Make lists. Carry a pad with you and write down the things you need to do. For example, keep lists of things to buy, errands to run, phone calls to return, and even the times you need to take your medicines. Cross items off as you finish them.
Use a portable planner or personal organizer. These can help you stay on top of day-to-day tasks and keep track of appointments and special days like birthdays and anniversaries. Paper and electronic versions are available.
Get a wall calendar. For some people, this works better than a portable planner because you can hang it up in a place that is easy for you to see every day. Put it on your refrigerator or even on your bathroom mirror so you’ll be sure to look at it several times a day.
Keep a notebook. For many people, a simple, ruled notebook works just as well as a planner. Use one to record everything you need to remember, such as:
- to-do lists
- the dates, times and addresses for appointments
- your medication schedule
- important telephone numbers
- the names of people you meet and a brief description of who they are.
You can also use your “memory notebook” as a journal to track chemobrain symptoms or other side effects, or to write down questions to ask your doctor at your next appointment.
Leave a message on your answering machine to remind yourself of something important. When you listen to the message later, write down the information so you don’t forget it.
Organize your environment. Keep things in familiar places so you’ll remember where you put them.
Avoid distractions. Work, read, and do your thinking in an uncluttered, peaceful environment. This can help you stay focused for longer periods of time.
Have conversations in quiet places. This minimizes distractions and lets you concentrate better on what the other person is saying.
Repeat information aloud after someone gives it to you, and write down the important points. For example, before you write down an appointment, you might say, “Okay, so we’re meeting at 2:00 p.m., Monday, June 3rd, at 503 Main Street.”
Keep your mind active. Do crossword puzzles and word games, or go to a lecture on a subject that interests you.
Proofread. Double-check the things you write to make sure you’ve used the right words and spelling.
Train yourself to focus. We often do one thing while thinking about another, which increases our chances of forgetting something important. For example, if you keep misplacing your keys, take extra time to think about or picture what you’re doing every time you put them down. Also, say aloud to yourself, “I’m putting my keys on my dresser.” Then look at them again, and repeat: “The keys are on my dresser.” Auditory (hearing) cues give your memory an extra boost.
Exercise, eat well and get plenty of rest and sleep. Research shows that these things help keep your memory working at its best.
Tell your loved ones what you’re going through. Depending on how private a person you are, you might tell your family and friends, so that they’ll understand if you forget things you normally wouldn’t forget. They may be able to help and encourage you.
Speak with an oncology social worker. If living with symptoms of chemobrain makes you anxious or sad, seek help. Oncology social workers, such as those at CancerCare, can work with you to help you find ways to cope.
**That being said, as a long term sufferer who suffers from 4 out of 5 symptoms most days, these tips do help. You should see the “to do” lists and notes I have on my phone & IPad.
Here are a couple of my favs that I use every single day –
Out of Milk – made by Capigami, Inc – www.outofmilk.com (I have several different shopping list kept separate for the many stops I may have, and this app also includes a to-do list, deals & pantry list if you’re that OCD)
Errands – made by Yoctoville – www.yoctoville.com
So, to sum it up…you’re not going crazy. Or, are you?