If you ever want to know what chemo brain is like then just picture yourself trying to play a terrible game of charades where absolutely no one gets you. Lately I have been struggling to find words I never would have struggled with prior to cancer. At times I can laugh it off and say, welp that’s my chemo brain. Other times, not so much. The struggle is real.
Memorization is also a challenge. I used to be able to remember numbers and combos like the back of my hand. Now I thank God that he gave someone the knowledge to create electronic devices that can store that information. I am starting to become one heck of a great note taker and an organizer of my thoughts in electronic form, score one for me! Perhaps I am destined to follow in Thomas Edison’s foot steps and become grand in the world of note taking or perhaps I’ll just have one heck of a collection of note taking journals. All I know is the cloud is my friend!
It’s definitely making me stop and think before I speak. It is both a gift and a curse. The gift is that I listen more and speak less. The curse is that I can have an internal debate going on in my head that would make Judge Judy throw her gavel across the room while I envision her to say, “just spit it out.”
Often times if I am frustrated by something in the journey I’ll research to see if any remedies are out there or how long the side effect will last. I should not have done that with chemo brain. It lasts for 10 YEARS! I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or break a plate. Holy moly that feels like a lifetime when you’ve just learned to celebrate each day one at a time.
The Americans with Disabilities Act actually recognizes chemo brain as a real thing. Outside of constantly playing bad games of charades to find words other effects are difficulty in concentrating on a single task, problems with short-term memory, misplacing objects, confusing dates and appointments, or mental fog like issues.
Of course when my husband says to me, “we forgot to go see The Last Jedi.” I was like, man that darn chemo brain with a hard wink! It’s like what I would imagine the selective hearing my husband has at times would be. I’ll chalk it up to a perk that I don’t recall needing to go see Sci-Fi hoopla.
While many researchers are still studying chemo brain there are a few things that can help. Exercising can help improve mental functions. Memory aids as I mentioned above, apps and notepads are your friend. Treating fatigue and sleep issues as neither of these help memory muscle. Helping to manage stress and anxiety can help elevate chemo brain symptoms as your mood elevates. Lastly, minimizing distractions helps vastly in focus.
Until someone comes up with a way to reverse chemo brain I’ll continue playing bad games of charades with myself because no one else really knows they are playing except me!
Raise those Cabernet glasses to bad games of charades, short hand, and awesome note taking!