I would like to tell you how much I appreciate your book - I bought it yesterday, read it all night, with a highlighter, crying.
My breast cancer was diagnosed on October 12, 2006, so about 2 and 1/2 years ago, at the age of 44. There was no history of breast cancer in our family, I was healthy, an avid exerciser, married with children, and had just recently retired to be home more with the kids, after having been an attorney working in a major film studio, supervising a legal department for about a dozen years. I had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. I felt lucky to have been diagnosed at the right time, and I had a great attitude. Mentally, I was fine. Then I started with tamoxifen, and within a month, I had horrible menopause symptoms, including mental "fogginess" and disassociation, forgetfulness, and mental confusion (out of body feelings), as well as the horrible night sweats, bloating, etc. The doctors then decided to remove my tubes and ovaries, and switched me to femera.
Getting off tamoxifen helped with the bloating/sweating issues, although has left me with chronic yeast infections. Far more frightening however, is the mental confusion, forgetfulness and feeling so "disassociated" from myself. Being told by doctors it was "all in my head" made it worse, I was convinced I had early Alzheimer's or a brain tumor. It got so bad several months ago, that when I could not remember my way out of the sports store, and knowing I had to then pick up and drive my kids, I went into a full panic attack.
I went to the emergency room at Cedars Hospital in Los Angeles, certain that there was something very, very, wrong with my mind. After a brain scan and a check of the arteries to ensure I hadn't had a stroke, I was released. The neurologist dismissed it as a panic attack and gave me xanax to carry in my purse. When I asked how come I never panicked when I was a successful, multi-tasking professional, wife and mom, he said I must be stressed and older, and that was it. The idea that my chemo from 2 years ago could have any bearing on my mental state was never suggested by my doctors or something I considered.
When I picked up your book yesterday, and started to read about other chemo survivors even years later feeling disoriented, confused, not like themselves, forgetful, and then panicky as a result thereof, I can't tell you how relieved I was. I'm not nuts, or if I am, at least I now know why. I am buying copies of your book and sending it to my gynecologist, oncologist and neurologist so they will perhaps have a better understanding of, and empathy for, their patients with these symptoms. As you said, I would still opt to have the chemo, but I wish I would have known that "chemo brain" could happen, and that it's not just me. I will follow your suggestions, I will hope for a better attitude and better mental acuity, but just knowing I am not alone has been so comforting.
Thank you again.
Lori, Esq., Los Angeles