Let's Talk Chemo-Brain
Don’t worry, I’ll keep this short. If you’re reading this because you are suffering from chemo-brain, then we both know this needs to be a quick read!
You can Google search or trawl the internet for the actual scientific research on chemo-brain and its causes. I am not a medical professional, so I only know what I know from my own experience of chemo-brain during my chemotherapy treatment.
I used to be a reader, a big reader. I could read a book in a day. I loved books. I took a book or my Kindle to my first chemo treatments. For the first two or three chemo treatments, I spent the whole day reading. But somewhere around chemo treatment number three, I stopped being able to read. I suddenly couldn’t get through a page without having to re-read it and then quickly found I couldn’t get through a paragraph. My brain just wasn’t taking anything in. I wasn’t processing or retaining information.
This fog soon spread to life in general. I couldn’t remember things, I wasn’t processing things, I felt foggy and disconnected. My concentration for extended periods of time was gone.
During my treatment, I did some things which helped me to stay on top of my treatment plan despite the mental haze. Here are some steps you too can take to help with the effects of chemo-brain;
- Take notes, keep a chemo-notebook to record notes from every appointment.
- Start a chemo-journal where you can track every day of your chemo cycle.
- Keep a physical diary where you log every appointment.
- Share with your support network – let them know what you’re going through and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
- Seek professional help – tell your medical team what you are experiencing.
- Avail of all counselling that you can find – your medical team might be able to recommend a suitable therapist, local cancer support centres might offer counselling supports or support group sessions.
- Listen to Podcasts.
- Start listening to books via Audible instead of trying to read them.
- Try taking up a creative outlet like painting or drawing – you can find beginner tutorials on YouTube.
- Get outside! Go for gentle walks or potter in the garden if you have one.
If you have found yourself here and are suffering from chemo-brain, take a deep breath and release it slowly.
You are not alone. You are not going crazy.
Your poor brain is just frazzled, and your entire system is probably in shock. Give yourself a break, acknowledge the enormity of what you are going through and just try and accept everything as it is for you right now.