It has taken some time, but now science and medicine acknowledge that chemo brain is a real side effect of chemotherapy. It can last for a few months or can linger on for years.
Chemo brain is characterized by mental confusion, inability to multi-task, memory problems, the inability to concentrate, and vocabulary problems – either the inability to think of a common word or the inability to say the word aloud and say a different word or words instead.
Chemo brain can be funny at times (particularly to one’s relatives and children) but mostly it is a frustrating and sometimes frightening state of affairs. I have had chemotherapy twice and have gone through this experience both times. Even 3 years past the second chemo, it still strikes me when I am overly tired or stressed.
I composed a list of chemo brain incidents I personally experienced. If you can relate to these, you have probably experienced chemo brain too!
1. You lose your purse, cell phone and
keys on a regular basis. You’ve been
known to “misplace” your children
from time to time but they always
2. You lose your ability to think of
everyday words. To compensate,
you speak in awkward descriptive
sentences like, “can you pass me
a…a…little round dead cow?” at the
neighborhood barbecue when you
want a hamburger.
3. Your brain finally comes up with
right word but your mouth
has a mind of its own with random
semi-related words coming out at
unexpected times. Now that you
have your burger, your brain thinks
bun but your mouth asks for toast
to put on your hamburger.
4. You get used to your children
thinking you are being funny
while your friends, neighbors, and
fellow co-workers think you are
drunk, crazy, or suffering early
stage dementia whenever you
open your mouth to speak.
5. It’s a good day at work when the
only thing mismatched is your
socks. Although your employer
complains, at least they don’t
know about the time you drove
halfway to work in your pajamas
before realizing you weren’t
6. You drive home from work and
realize you have no memory of
the ride home.
7. You find yourself at the
grocery store or mall with no
idea why you are there or what
you came to buy.
. 8. You can listen to the same old
gossip time and again as you have no memory of hearing
the story the first time round.
9. You are cooking and the
phone rings. You forget about
making dinner until the
smoke detector reminds you.
10. You decide to tackle chemo
brain head-on by making to-
do lists and putting them in
safe places. You
immediately forget where
those safe places are.
These are my personal top ten hits of chemo brain. I’m sure there are many more, but frankly I have forgotten them. Please let me know I’m not alone in my daze and confusion. I’d love to hear the funny and not so funny things chemo brain did to you in the comments below.
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