Monday, November 30, 2009

A Spouse With Brain Fog (From Michelle)


My questions are from the perspective of the well spouse or family member: Any tips for caregivers/spouse/family in terms of coping with/confronting/discussing this chemo brain issue with our loved one? Also, are there safety issues for parenting while experiencing fog?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Are Memories Ever Really Lost?

Idelle Davidson

That's what a research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wanted to know.  And so to begin, they genetically engineered some mice to develop Alzheimer's disease-like symptoms.  The mice quickly forgot what had taken them several weeks to learn (one task was navigating a water maze). 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Can't Find Your Words? Say: "Chemo Brain!"

By Idelle Davidson

You know it's just on the tip of your tongue.  It's a word that has a "ka" sound in the beginning and a "tah" sound somewhere at the end.  And you can almost see it, but then darn, it's gone.  Perhaps later, when you're rushing to slap dinner on the table, that stupid word, so maddeningly elusive just hours before will pop right into your head, as if it were all just a silly misunderstanding between you and your brain.

I'm guessing that if you've had chemo and have experienced the fog that often follows, then you know what I'm talking about, right?  It's not that you can't comprehend language, it's that you can't retrieve it.  It's like the arcade game with the crane where you try to scoop up the two-penny plastic key chain and then five-dollars-worth-of-quarters later, it's stuck in the chute.

In a 2006 study of the psychosocial side effects experienced by 26 women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, language (including fluency, verbal repetition, reading, and writing to dictation) was the most severely affected cognitive process, followed by memory. (Source: F. Downie, Psycho-Oncology 15 -2006: 921-930).  That's not entirely surprising considering that chemotherapy not only may affect language but the speed in which we process information.

One of the people I interviewed for "Your Brain After Chemo" had this to say: "It is painful when people look at me with confusion while I am trying to talk.  I know that I'm not making sense, and I don't know how else to talk.  When it happens I die a million deaths and feel very dumb."    

Have you experienced word retrieval problems during or following chemotherapy?  Have you found ways to compensate?  If so, what works for you?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Driving, Spatial Orientation (From JBF)

I just finished your book "Your Brain after Chemo".  It was very good.  Thank you for writing it!

Chemo brain was HARD to deal with.  My observations now that I am 5 months out:

1. Driving:  I should not have been driving.  I never had an accident... but I came close too often.  See the next item for more details.

2. Spatial orientation:
I pride myself on being very aware of my surroundings, and my "place in space".  As an example of the problem:  I was driving to a chemo appointment - had done the trip many times - and was totally confused about which exit to take.  Fortunately my daughter was with me and provided the directions.  Very unnerving.  Needless to say, she drove home!!!