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Chemo Brain

I had heard about Chemo Brain. They told me I might forget things easily, have trouble focusing, and feel like I’m in a fog. I didn’t believe them. I assumed those symptoms could just be from the unbelievable amount of stress that going through chemo and cancer treatments causes. Well that’s true, but chemo brain was real for me, on top of the stress-related brain issues.

While I was going through chemo, it would take me for.freakin.ever to get out of the house. We are talking 10 or more trips back into the house for something I forgot. Oh, I forgot my keys. Oh yeah, I need my purse. Wait, I should grab my water bottle… what did I come back in the house for? …and on and on.

My husband even pointed out that I kept leaving cabinet doors open. Once he pointed it out, I started realizing that I did it all the time. I would go to get a glass out and just never close the cupboard door. So weird.

The most frustrating chemo brain problem was losing my words and losing my train of thought. I regularly forgot what I was saying mid-sentence and would have to ask “what were we talking about?” It is also completely frustrating to know what you want to say and not be able to think of the right word. We’ve all had this happen in regular life, but chemo brain can make it happen all the time. And not necessarily for unusual words.

My husband noticed the chemo brain effects more than I did. He tells me that I constantly forgot conversations. There were supposedly a lot of repeated discussions. Of course, I didn’t believe him at the time. I guess that’s kind of like being accused of snoring…

So what do you do about it?

  1. First off, own it. Talk about it, joke about it, let people close to you know what’s going on. It helps to tell people so they don’t think you are being rude or uninterested if you forgot what they said or ask them to repeat something.

  2. Laugh about it. I found keeping a sense of humor about it and making fun of myself helped.

  3. Ask for help. “Hey, can you remind me of that when it gets closer? No promises I’ll remember with chemo brain!”

  4. Write things down. Utilize your calendar or daily planner like crazy, make written to-do lists, use the notes on your phone or carry a little notebook and write down everything.

  5. Most importantly, keep moving! Exercise helps!

Fortunately, my chemo brain didn’t last forever. It gradually got better for me after my last chemo treatment. If I had to guess, I’d say I was mostly back to normal after about 6 months. If you are experiencing chemo brain, be patient with yourself.  It won't last forever.


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