Chemo Brain after Cancer Treatment

Chemo Brain is real.   I am 5 1/2  months post Chemotherapy.  During Chemotherapy, I had difficulties remembering words.  Then I had difficulties with my memory.  Thankfully, those two things have subsided dramatically.   But I do notice other issues.

I belong to internet support group of 20 women.  We all started chemotherapy within a few weeks of each other and finished about the same time.  We had a chemo brain discussion recently on our Facebook page.  Everyone is suffering with chemo brain to some degree and some more than others.  We were all different.  Some of us had difficulty with attention, others with memory, others with speed, and many with finding the right word.

In an interesting article from the New York Times, it shows from research chemo brain can last 5 years or longer. “It’s clearly established now that chemo brain does exist and can continue long-term,” said Karen L. Syrjala, co-director of the Survivorship Program at Fred Hutchinson and the study’s lead author. “The real issue here is that recovery from cancer treatment is not a one-year process but a two- to five-year process. People need to understand the extent to which the cells in their bodies have really been compromised by not only the cancer, but also the treatment.”   The entire article can be found here:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/04/chemo-brain-may-last-5-years-or-more/#postComment.

I don’t want to wait 2 to 5 years, so I have started doing brain exercises to help my cognitive brain functions!  There is a website called Lumosity.   I have found it very helpful.  They will give you 30 days free, however, then you have to pay a monthly or yearly fee.  But I feel like I am sharper already just doing the assigned exercises.

I’ve been trying to do other things to stimulate my brain.  Simple things like trying new things, driving a different way to a familiar location, visiting new grocery stores, and even different churches.  New ways of doing things help me and my brain very much!  Some effects of chemotherapy, I cannot change.  But if I can help my brain, I am on it!

If you are suffering from chemo brain, don’t despair.  It can definitely improve.  It may take some time, but don’t be too hard on  yourself.  You have been through so much.  I challenge you to “change it up” and start doing things differently.  If you play the piano or other musical instrument, do so.  If you always use your right hand, use your left hand for some things.  Learn and use new words, do Sodoku or Crossword Puzzles, or brain challenges like I am.  You will notice an improvement!

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One thought on “Chemo Brain after Cancer Treatment

  1. I am a caregiver to my 89-year-old husband who had a stroke 4 years ago. It has fascinated me to compare some of the effects of his stroke to my chemobrain situation. Luckily, I have most of my functioning, but I really notice the word finding difficulty when I’m talking about intellectual subjects or trying to make a logical point in a discussion. All of sudden, BAM…know exactly what I want to say but can’t get the word out. Usually it’s one key word, not a phrase or whole sentence. The same thing happens to my husband. Although he’s profoundly speech impaired, he can talk easily on the phone (automatic appropriate responses, etc.), but when he has to think, the disconnect happens, and he’s liable to say any old word for the word he really wants. I know not to say any old word, so I just stop talking…a complete blank. The comparison is interesting, and I wish some research would be done on it.

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