Chemo Brain

My thoughts lately have been jumbled and confusing. Writing is an effort more than a release. I can’t put two sentences together in a legible fashion. I forget words, easy words. I will repeat myself unceasingly. The medical term for it is “cognitive dysfunction”. The jargon is “chemo brain”. I’ve written about it before, and this is my reminder that it’s real, very real and very hard. The hardest part? The people who laugh it off and tell me that must be a nice excuse to have, because they forget things, too.

This isn’t just forgetfulness. This is not remembering whole conversations I’ve had with my husband hours before. This is sitting at a restaurant with Stat and trying FOUR times to to figure out the tip on a simple $8.00 sandwich ending with her grabbing my money and saying, “You’re leaving him $2.00, Ang.” This is wearing the same clothes 3 days in a row because I’ve forgotten that I’ve worn them already. This is driving 3 minutes to the cancer center every day and stopping in the middle of the road to try to remember what lane I’m supposed to be turning in.

Cancer survivors, take note. The mental fog and forgetfulness of “chemo brain” are no figment of your imagination.

A new UCLA study shows that chemotherapy causes changes to the brain’s metabolism and blood flow that can linger at least 10 years after treatment. Reported Oct. 5 in the online edition of the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, the findings may help to explain the disrupted thought processes and confusion that plague many chemotherapy patients.

“People with ‘chemo brain’ often can’t focus, remember things or multitask the way they did before chemotherapy,” explained Dr. Daniel Silverman, head of neuronuclear imaging and associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Our study demonstrates for the first time that patients suffering from these cognitive symptoms have specific alterations in brain metabolism.”

(Scientists Find ‘Chemo Brain’ No Figment Of The Imagination. ScienceDaily.)

Needless to say it’s scary, especially for an organized, multi-tasking control freak. As I’ve started to get back into some semblance of my routine, I have struggled. I often say to Brian, “I don’t know how to do it anymore.” How did I ever toast bagels, make oatmeal, pour juice and set the table in the span of 10 minutes without burning the oatmeal and the bagels getting cold? It becomes overwhelming and disheartening.

So I’ve started every morning by reading this:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

And I ask God to fill my mind with these things, because that is what I need to cling to. This is beautiful and well, frankly, everything else is a jumbled mess.

3 responses to “Chemo Brain”

  1. Dear Ang,

    You are amazing! For someone with a “jumbled up chemo brain” you write wonderful blogs! Just remember that your Heavenly Father knows your frame & remembers that you are dust & loves you very much, chemo brain & all. And we love you, too! Sherry


  2. Dear Angie,

    I was thinking of this verse after our talk last week. My dad used to have this on top of our TV growing up, and it is burned into my heart. I think loving Neculai when he was alive taught me how often we take for granted our minds and the ability God has given us to think and reason and speak, etc. I know it is so humbling to be reminded that every single part of our being is created and sustained for HIS glory. You are glorifying Him today through your chemo brain!!! I love you. MKS


  3. Barbara Gillan Avatar
    Barbara Gillan

    My reply??? No words can express my wonder at all the Lord is doing in and through your life and your writing. Only, I love you dearly even when we haven’t talked and I have not seen you.
    In His gracious love, Barbara


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