I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma a little over a year ago after I had experienced symptoms about 18 months ago with primarily weight loss. I was in great physical shape and doing a lot of hiking.
The treatments of ABVD (Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, and Dacarbazine) began in August 2009, and it was shortly after that my brain began changing. I had a history of retaining names, ideas, concepts, book titles and past experiences, but began to forget many things I once experienced. By the time I finished my chemotherapy sessions in February 2010, I was definitely different because of what I had forgotten, and what I consistently knew before and could no longer remember.
Your Brain After Chemo is absolutely a vital resource in providing ideas for recovering some of my memory that has simply disappeared, as if I had entered a twilight zone during chemo sessions. My memory was so affected by chemotherapy drugs, that even though much long-term memory is still there, many memories of names of people whom I met and titles of books I have read during the past few years suddenly were forgotten. My brain could simply not retrieve them when I got into conversations with friends and wanted to speak of a person or a book, even though I remembered some content and experiences.
I am retrieving short-term memory slowly and with practice and re-reading, but I always wonder: What is considered normal memory loss after certain specific chemotherapies?
Second question might be: Why is it that many patients are not told of this potential memory loss BEFORE they enter chemotherapy? Why is it not normal protocol for oncologists to mention cognitive and brain functions are affected?
I still do much physical activity, I once even hiked 4 miles in between chemo treatments, but my normal astute brain functions seem to recover slowly at times, and some times rapidly, depending on the day, on sleep patterns, on reading habits, on memory exercises and on dietary intake.
Thank you for writing the book and for this opportunity to share an experience on the mental side effect of my Chemotherapy.
DR. DAN SILVERMANThanks for sharing your experience, Lorenzo, as well as for your feedback on Your Brain After Chemo.
Regarding your questions, first, there really is no "normal memory loss" which we can cite... the experiences of patients even with a given chemotherapy regimen have ranged from little or none, to debilitating.
As to why patients are not warned of potential memory loss before undergoing chemotherapy, the reasons are also varied... some oncologists believe that advising patients about the possible cognitive side effects might increase their propensity to experience them; others believe that there is no real choice anyway about what the right course to follow would be, so why complicate matters with consideration of these issues; and there are others who still are even skeptical about the existence of the chemo/cognition connection.
It sounds like you are aware of, and doing, a lot of the right things to facilitate your recovery, and we wish you the best.