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Cancer Fact Monday: Chemo Brain.. is it real?

The awareness and educational post today is about a problem that occurs for so many of us during and following chemotherapy, which is chemo brain.

Never heard of it??? Don't feel bad, I hadn't either until it happened to me.

Chemo brain occurs for many of us and involves thinking and memory problems that start during treatment and can last years. That's right, YEARS!!!

It can start with little things, like forgetting where you left your keys, not being able to focus on an article in the newspaper, going to the store and forgetting why you went there. At first, it's kind of funny. I would walk in a room and have no idea why I went in there. It was like getting a taste of dementia at the ripe old age of 40.

Survivors often think it's happening because they are tired, or working too much through chemo, that it will go away once they rest or finish treatment. However, it often gets worse AFTER treatment. Yep, just as your life is starting to get back on track, your brain starts letting you down. I was never good with remembering names, but now, I often can't recall someone's name I've known for years. I will swear I told Eric I have a meeting, and when he is just as adamant that I didn't, I struggle to remember if I did.

It would almost be funny except for the colossal fear I always face when in trial, the fear that I will forget the name of a witness, or worse, not be able to recall the word I need to use. It's happened a few times. I literally had to say to the witness "you know, that thing in the air with stars and stripes" when I couldn't recall the word "flag". There's no cure for chemo brain, although there are things that can be done to help the symptoms, such as doing repetitive brain and memory exercises, learning coping strategies like taking notes or memory tricks, or, as in my case, being prescribed medication like Ritalin. I told chemo to kiss my ass in February of 2014, and my brain still hasn't recovered.

So, forgive us survivors if we forget what you said as soon as you stop talking, can't stay focused on the project we started 20 minutes ago, or still can't grasp the idea you've explained 3 times.

We're trying, I promise.


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