Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chemo Brain

Today is the one year anniversary of my surgery -"salpingo-bilateral oopherectomy & hysterectomy." Say that fast five times.

It seems there are lots of anniversaries playing around in my mind of late. I was wondering if there is something amiss or is this a normal thought pattern? I can't figure out why cancer consumes me. It's not as if I have nothing better to do or think about. Cancer is always there. But then, when I think of cancer, I think of Jesus and I think of what a difference He has made in my life. Maybe cancer is my thorn...

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”
2 Corinthians 12:7

And then there are times when my brain is a little addled. I don't seem to be able to remember things like I should sometimes. I know some people laugh at me and maybe think I am a bit of a dimwit, but I am convinced that I have chemo brain. I have done a little checking with some of my new friends who have had chemotherapy, and it has certainly come to my attention (and to my relief) that I am not alone. I have also done some research online about 'chemo brain.' Guess what? It's a real affliction. Here's a snippet that I found interesting on a medical forum:

"Doctors pump the body full of harmful chemicals in an attempt to kill off the cancerous cells, but the treatment is not a very targeted one. Apart form the well-known side effects of hair loss, nausea and fatigue, cognitive impairment is now becoming increasingly studied. Dubbed “Chemo Brain,” many chemotherapy patients feel disconnected from their pre-treatment state. People who have chemo-brain may find themselves unable to concentrate on their work, or unable to juggle multiple tasks. Some find they don’t remember things as well as they used to."

So we tally forth and face the music - with or without the same amount of functioning gray matter. For any of you who may be wondering about this chemo brain affliction, and want to listen to a little longer presentation check out this video.

This is a presentation by Dr. Christine Korol of the Alberta Cancer Board about the cognitive changes that can occur during cancer treatment.


WhiteStone said...

Let me say first that I hope my hair comes in curly like yours! From my old white/straight to dark/curly! Wouldn't that be cool! As for the chemo brain... I think I've already experienced that...except I considered it menopause brain. I'm a bit older than you, but I remember the bumps in the road of that time of my life. As for now? Chemo brain? Ummm, certainly seem a bit lethargic at times. And I hate to admit it, but a little less witty in expressing myself, either in writing or verbally. Eeew! That sounds bad! Delete that last item. LOL

vjc said...

What a helpful presentation, Glynis. I'd recently seen a TV special by Dr. Daniel Amen (he wrote "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life") and he mentioned chemotherapy when talking about brain health but not such specific areas that can be affected.

I'm sure your sense of humor tides you over the worst of the mental stumbles. Be patient with yourself. Those of us that love you don't mind at all.

Joanna Mallory said...

Thanks for explaining this, Glynis. When things start messing with our brains, we think it's just us. Bad enough to be struggling with it, but to know it's not "just me" should make it easier. I know it does for me in other things.

Wasn't it St. Paul who said something about we know we're not suffering alone but are in good company with others all over the world? He was talking about Christians facing persecution, but it seems to apply to other human suffering too.

Hugs today, my friend.

Lori said...

It's never too late to learn...thanks for sharing and filling the rest of the world in on this little secret. It's so hard to understand sometimes when we are not the one's going through something....Ryan and I experienced this lots waiting and trying everything humanly possible to have our little blessings! But now I must admit...what about a '4 kids' brain? Is there research for that? Just kidding! Thanks again for sharing. I love your writings!

Tracey said...

Well i'ts now 2 years since my last chemo and i swear i still have chemo brain!! Forgetful isn't the word, i have to write EVERYTHING down!!

or it might be, as Whitestone said " menapause brain" its certainly something haha.

Brilliant post.. Thank you xx

Cindy Update said...

Thanks Glynis! I love the little clip. It makes me not feel so strange now - making lists, having to tell myself often to concentrate on conversations going on, feeling like things are getting a little out of hand, trying to unsuccessfully multi-task, I thought that I was just a little rusty from the "year off".
Just one more side effect that we are left with.
Who would have guessed that you could be SO different one year ago that even your mind is altered! We are definitely changed women!