Cancer is Crap: Chemo Brain

November 18th, 2008. 6:17 pm

A few months ago, after only a couple of sessions of chemotherapy, I noticed that I was forgetting little things, or wandering off in the middle of some task and never quite getting back to it.  If it wasn’t written down, it seemed to evaporate.  In short, I became a bit of an airhead.

This was alarming as no one on my medical team had warned me that part of getting cancer might mean becoming an airhead.  But it turns out it’s an actual side-effect of chemo (or of the cancer itself, they’re not sure) and it’s known in the medical field by the very technical term, “chemo brain.”

There is even a tiny reference to it in the book they gave me at the hospital, confirming that yes, Virginia, there really is such a thing as chemo brain. It says this:

 “Many women who have received chemotherapy for breast cancer will experience a slight decrease in mental functioning.  There might be some difficulty in concentration and memory. This could last a long time but rarely interferes with a woman’s ability to do intellectual tasks.”

A cursory internet search backs up the book. Some sites describe the effects of chemo brain in detail and even offer suggestions for managing it.  As helpful as these sites were, I found myself amused by such gems as:

“Don’t try to multi-task. Focus on one thing at a time.”

Is this tip offered by someone who has ever held down a job?  No, really. Or even left the house?

“You may have difficulty completing sentences or finding the right word.”

Obviously this does not bode well for a writer.  As a writer it is of para… um, very big, very top importance that I retain the ability to… to… oh look, a bird.

And my favourite:

“Though the brain usually recovers over time…”

Pardon me?  What do you mean “usually” recovers over time?? I don’t think it’s really necessary to scare us airheads with that kind of talk.  Although we’ll probably forget all about it in a day or two.

Some sites I found helpful:

To read more from the Cancer is Crap Series, click here.

You may also be interested in

Cancer is Crap: sicksicksicksicksicksicksick
On the set of HIGH RISK: A Rethink Breast Cancer Documentary. I (Kelly) am in the middle with Carla to the right and Erika to the left.
Living High Risk
April Stearns
#YWBC Profile: April
50 Carroll Street Toronto, Ontario Canada M4M 3G3
Phone: 416 220 0700
Registered Charity #: 892176116RR0001

Join Our Movement

Follow Us

Donate Now

You can make a positive impact in the lives of people impacted by breast cancer