14 January 2014

Chemo Brain

Not sure this post is actually going to make it today.  I've been trying to coherently formulate thoughts but they all seem to end in a jumbled mess of words. 
I feel like I've got cobwebs in my brain. The cancer community commonly refers to this situation as Chemo Brain.
Yes, Chemo Brain. 
Stop laughing. 
I've compiled a list of 10 things I have learned since finding out I have leukemia.
Today, I'll share with you number 2. You can read about number 1 here.

2. Chemo Brain is real.

I was out recently with some amazing people from my awesome church (Patti's awesome church). While waiting for our dessert and coffee, they asked how I was doing and how my treatment was going. I explained that I take my Super Dangerous but Absolutely Necessary chemotherapy pills twice a day. Not a big deal. I say it's not a big deal because I'm not sitting chained to an IV for four hours watching poison drip into my veins.
But I do have to wear gloves when I get the pills out. I also have to stop eating two hours before taking the pills and I can't eat until one hour after taking the pills. Oh, and the two doses need to be 12 hours apart. Still, not a big deal. But, the time was immediately important because I had ordered creme brulee and wanted to make sure I got to enjoy it before my deadline. 
I did. 
It was yummy.
Conversation shifted to what kind of side effects I had with my Super Dangerous but Absolutely Necessary chemotherapy pills. I told them that I'm tired. Really tired. Feel generally crappy. But, trying to lighten the mood,  I laughed and said "Chemo Brian stinks."
They had never heard of chemo brain. They thought I was making it up. 
I'm not. The wise ones at Cancer.org explain it like this: 
For years cancer survivors have worried about, joked about, and been frustrated by the mental cloudiness they sometimes notice before, during, and after cancer treatment. This mental fog is commonly called chemo brain. Patients have been aware of chemo brain for some time, but only recently have studies been done that could help to explain it. 
Though the brain usually recovers over time, the sometimes vague yet distressing mental changes cancer patients notice are real, not imagined. They might last a short time, or they might go on for years. These changes can make people unable to go back to their school, work, or social activities, or make it so that it takes a lot of mental effort to do so.

It's further explained as:
  • Forgetting things
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble remembering
  • Trouble multi-tasking
  • Taking longer to finish things
  • Trouble remembering common words
My husband says it's getting more noticeable with me. Mainly, I seem to have trouble bringing up words. He says I say "you know what I mean?" while trying to explain something or talk about something. And, he says, he always nods yes. Even when he has no clue what I'm talking about. 
He's a good man.


  1. I have definitely heard of this phenomonon and I love that you can approach the subject with humor. I am wondering, though, if chemo brain ever messes up your pill schedule--I doubt I could keep track of all that and I don't have chemo brain to blame!

    1. LOL! I have alarms set on my phone so I don't get messed up!

  2. I had/perhaps still have(!?!) Chemo brain. It does stink. My friend in your area is actually in a study to gather dats chemo brain, she takes tests periodically to evaluate mental acuity. Its pretty cool. Make lots of notes :)

    1. She's in a study? That's interesting! I'd love to talk to her!