The Chemo Brain Struggle Continues
Chemo brain is defined by the American Cancer Society as:
- Forgetting things that they usually have no trouble recalling (memory lapses)
- Trouble concentrating (they can’t focus on what they’re doing, have a short attention span, may “space out”)
- Trouble remembering details like names, dates, and sometimes larger events
- Trouble multi-tasking, like answering the phone while cooking, without losing track of one task (they’re less able to do more than one thing at a time)
- Taking longer to finish things (disorganized, slower thinking and processing)
- Trouble remembering common words (unable to find the right words to finish a sentence)1
I have a daily conversation with someone who says to me, "I told you that." I have NO idea what they are talking about. I go into the kitchen and by the time I get there, I have NO idea what I went in there for. My family and friends always make references to something we did together and I have no recollection.
Finding ways to manage my chemo brain
I have had to reorganize my life in such a way to help me from forgetting everything....and I mean everything. I keep track of all my appointments on my Gmail Calendar on my phone so it is backed up online for the many times I deleted something and forgot about it. I have a 5" x 8" planner where I write everything else down. Specific days when prescriptions need to be refilled, when to make appointments, and, if I am cooking that day, it will list what I'm cooking and what ingredients I need.
On television, there is nothing about chemo brain, but many television shows depict characters with dementia. For me, chemo brain almost seems like a mild case of dementia. A good example is that at the beginning of the month, I separate my money by the bills I have to pay. I have notes in my planner, otherwise, I would have NO idea why this pile of cash is wrapped separately from all my other cash.
Coping with a little bit of humor
On a daily basis, luckily, my family and I approach my diminishing cognitive skills with humor. At first, it made me angry and then I realized there really isn't much I can do about it so why not go with the flow. As a mom of 7, I write down everything my kids tell me (they are all grown) to remember what they are doing on a daily basis.
On a final note, a good example was last night. My daughter purchased a Wendy's Frosty for me to have as a late night snack. It was delicious. Two hours later I had a thought, "Oh boy, I have a Frosty in there." I went to the freezer and there wasn't one. I yelled "who ate my Frosty?" and the answers coming from the other room with laughter were, "YOU ALREADY ATE IT, MOM!!"
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 28, 2020, Jennifer Toth passed away. Jennifer was a passionate advocate for the Lung Cancer community. She will be deeply missed.
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