Click here to read Part 1 of Tips for Managing Chemo Brain
When cancer or its treatment damages our ability to focus and recall meetings, responsibilities, errands, etc., we may need a little help. Using tools and techniques can help overcome some of the effects of chemo brain. Part 2 of this article addresses tips that help trigger thought processes or jump start focus, such as, why did I enter this room? (Part 1 of this article applies to helpful tools included in smart phone apps.)
Entering a Room
I cannot count the times I walk into a room and then wonder…Why did I come here? Here’s a tip that helps me remember why I entered the room. Wherever you are when your mind goes blank, just stand right there for a moment. Do not move until it comes to you. Ask yourself, “What is here that I may need to get?” “Was I on the way to get clean linens to change the bed? Was I getting the vacuum? Was I checking on the laundry in the dryer? If that doesn’t work, think about what you were doing just prior to entering the room. What interrupted you or caused you to stop what you were doing and enter this room? If needed, go back to where you were before you came into this room; you may see something that will trigger your memory. If you are still stumped, don’t worry about it. Either it will come to you later or it’s not very important anyway.
Three letters…GPS. I use a navigational app on my smart phone ALL the time. Not because I don’t know my way around. I use it to keep on track. Let’s say, for example, my husband calls me and asks me to pick up some milk on my way home. I enter the store as my destination; otherwise, I would inevitably forget the milk. I use the free app Waze, which also tells you when there are cops around. Waze, and other navigational apps, will allow you to enter more than one destination if you have multiple stops to make. (For safety, I also use a phone holder which make it easier to follow directions without having to look down at my phone.)
Relax…Yet Take Chemo Brain Seriously
Try not to allow chemo brain to cause undue stress which only adds to the problem. There are potentially serious risks to forgetting, such as leaving a child in a hot car or neglecting something on the stove. Many people may not understand how anyone could forget something so important. Chemo brain is not a matter of choice; however, there are things you can do to overcome the misfiring of brain signals.
Another technique is simply acknowledging and accepting chemobrain as part of your new normal. Recently, I was on a panel when the moderator asked me a question. As I started to answer, I had a couple of points I wanted to make. Right then and there in midstream sentence, chemo brain invaded my thoughts. Not only did I forget what I was going to say, I even forgot the moderator’s question. In a situation like this, there is nothing to do but laugh it off. I apologized and acknowledged my chemo brain to the audience. It only lasted a moment. Fortunately, I recalled my thoughts and was able to share them.
Chemo brain is unpredictable. We can use tips and techniques but it will inevitably sneak up on us when we least expect it. If you have discovered your own techniques for combatting chemo brain, please share in the comments section below.