Chemo brain

This is my first blog in two months(!). It’s also been 6 months to the day since I had my double mastectomy – which could easily have been 2 years ago. Anywho I am still alive – sorry for not letting you know ๐Ÿ™„.

Here’s a short run-down of some of the things that have happened since my last blog:

  • I have now finished my course of 6 chemotherapy sessions๐Ÿ˜
  • I’ve had another hospital admission with a chest infection in that period โ˜น๏ธ
  • I’ve started work on an art project – more on this in the NY
  • I’ve started counselling (which is excellent btw) at the Robert Ogden Centre in Leeds
  • My head hair is starting to grow back ๐Ÿ˜ฌ. It is baby hair and does feel like a spring chicken but it is hair non the less

The reason why I’ve not blogged in two months? Because the second half of chemo drugs (docetaxal) has left me with a little understood phenomenon known as chemo brain.

Chemo brain – do tell? ๐Ÿค” Chemo brain refers to changes in memory, concentration and the ability to think clearly. Chemo brain can also be called chemo fog, chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment or cognitive dysfunction. At the moment we donโ€™t know exactly what causes these problems, or how many people are affected by them.

The symptoms of chemo brain were first linked to chemotherapy. But the term chemo brain can be misleading. Changes in memory and concentration can affect people with cancer who havenโ€™t had chemotherapy.

Symptoms can be frustrating and affect everyday life. The below are the typical symptoms and an indication of whether I have experienced them. They include:

  • Being unusually disorganised โŒ
  • Confusion โœ…
  • Difficulty concentrating โœ…
  • Difficulty finding the right word โœ…
  • Difficulty learning new skills – not tested
  • Difficulty multitasking โŒ
  • Fatigue โŒ
  • Feeling of mental fogginess โœ…
  • Short attention span โŒ
  • Short-term memory problems โœ…
  • Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks โœ…
  • Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation โŒ
  • Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words โŒ

Strangely I had no signs of chemo brain when I was on the EC chemo drug (the first 3 sessions). It was only when I started my 4th chemo session – with the docetaxal drug – that I noticed a change in how I was able to process information. It was weird.

I struggled to watch and follow films but was fine listening to the radio. I could read but couldn’t write very well. I was getting my names frequently jumbled up and often totally wrong! I was losing my train of thought when talking more frequently. It was and still is very unnerving.

Words v numbers Interestingly I have no problems with numbers. I’ve mentioned previously that I’m an analyst by background and so I am much better at numbers than words. I have no problem processing numbers, completing sudoku games and the like and have had no problem at work completing various analysis etc. Like how physically the chemo preyed on my asthma as the weak link which is why I had so many chest infections, it’s like it’s also preying on my mental weak link of words. DAMN YOU CHEMO!

Apparently researchers are still working to understand why chemo brain occurs and what can be done about it. I’ve been advised that these symptoms are likely to subside after a while and will only be temporary which is a relief. But we’ll see.

Anywho, I’m back and won’t be so long away again. It’s taken me a while to write this post but by writing it I know it’s helping to beat the fog and to retrain my brain.

Liz Spice, Friday 22nd December

4 Replies to “Chemo brain”

  1. Wow! How frustrating it must have been for you. Glad to hear that the fog is lifting. Hope you all have a great Christmas and that all will continue to improve in the New Year. Thinking of you.


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