You know those hick-ups in your brain, especially when you’re tired?
Placing a cup of freshly poured coffee in the fridge?
Squeezing hand cream on your toothbrush instead of paste?
Being unable to find words and people’s names?
Well, imagine that feeling… amplified and all day long.
Welcome to life with chemobrain.
What is chemobrain?
The word chemobrain is used to describe the cognitive consequences of treatment against cancer. Some scientists prefer to use terms like chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction. Others don’t believe in chemobrain at all. But ask a former patient if the following sounds familiar and you will most likely get a confirmation:
- Loss of memory and ability to focus
- Foggy brain, restless thoughts
- Mood swings, feeling dejected
- Unexplainable fatigue
- Trouble planning, multitasking, being slow at routine tasks
- Letting things fall out of your hand
What causes chemobrain?
Contrary to what the name suggests, chemobrain isn’t caused by chemotherapy only. Rather, it is a general description of all the mental symptoms one might experience after:
- Being out of routine for months or sometimes years
- Using different types of hormone therapy
- Having to deal with stress and emotional overload
- Taking a lot of medicine – all sorts of painkillers and anti-nausea meds
- Receiving anesthesia during a surgical procedure
- Dealing with sleep issues
What can you do?
Over time, those little brain farts and annoying side effects may become less prominent and less frequent. What has proven to be helpful:
- Sticking to a daily routine (I have a post about that coming up ♡ )
- Making sure you level the amount of input (noise, conversations, information) with enough output (exercise, movement, creativity)
- Meditate, rest, sleep – in other words: restore
- Train your brain with puzzles, games or professional Cogmed training
- Take notes: keep a diary, make groceries lists, write down appointments
And, cut yourself some slack. Remind yourself of all you have been through, tap yourself on the shoulder for that, take a deep breath and try again next time. You’re amazing.
Have you heard of chemobrain before? Does it sound familiar? Any tips to share? Do let me know in the comments below.