The thing I miss most about life before breast cancer: not my breasts, hair or body. It’s my brain.
Yes, my brain. Everything else I can live without – or with a modified post-cancer version of. But I really need my brain.
“Chemo brain” is a term used quite often in the cancer community. Sometimes it’s used in jest, but, to cancer survivors that suffer from this cognitive impairment or cognitive dysfunction, it’s a very real issue. And I didn’t need new research to tell me that.
This week marks two years since I completed chemo. Yet, the mental fog that began with chemo hasn’t gotten better. In fact, I believe it’s gotten worse. In the past year, I have misplaced some pretty valuable items, forgotten some very important things, and even gotten lost on the way home or to familiar places.
These days, I can’t seem to get through a day without setting reminders for my reminders, Post-It notes and strings. Chemo brain doesn’t only affect me; it affects my parenting, my work and my home. It often makes things that should be easy much more difficult. It doesn’t only affect memory, but it can make concentrating, prioritizing and multi-tasking a challenge too.
I’ve discussed the issue with my health practitioners, who chalk some of it up to fatigue, stress and lack of sleep. Family and friends tease that some of it is just mommy brain and getting older. And maybe it is all of that combined.
But after doing research on chemo brain today, I wonder if my brain will ever be restored to a healthy, properly functioning one. Some survivors and doctors say it takes time. While other survivors have dealt with it for over a decade. I guess only time will tell.
In the meantime, excuse me if I forget your name or your birthday. That text or email you sent me today? Yeah, I forgot about it literally two seconds after I read it. The bill that was due? Go ahead and slap on a late payment. And honey, sorry about the burnt lasagna but luckily, I didn’t burn the house down.
And while it’s on my mind and before I forget, here are some reminders (for myself) and tips to help manage chemo brain:
- American Cancer Society shares tips on managing Chemo Brain: It is Real.
- Cure Magazine shares tips to help Reclaim Your Brain.
Also, to remind me that I’m not alone in this, I found these while searching #chemobrain on Twitter:
@SeaGlass4Nicole: That awkward moment when you’re holding a tissue, forgetting what you grabbed it for . . . even while sneezing.
@cheryl_savage: Just looked in the cupboard and found a bag of deli ham…ugh