How Slow is Your Brain?

In the introduction of Your Brain After Chemo, I tell the story of one of my friends, "Linda," who was in a support group with me at the Wellness Community.  Earlier in the week she had tried to get to the market only to find herself tangled in frustration.

First she forgot her purse and had to drive home to get it.  She left a second time, only to realize she had forgotten her grocery list.  Again she returned home.  This went on six times, each time she needed something else.  Finally, ready to throw herself under the nearest bus, she carefully took inventory.  Yes, she had her purse.  Yes, she had her list.  Yes, she had her driving glasses.  Yes, she had enough checks and change for the meter.  And yes, she had the directions she needed for an errand she would run after shopping.

Finally, she got to her car.  She opened her purse, felt for her keys and realized she had left them in the house and she was locked out!

So cognitively speaking, what was going on here? Problems with multitasking and organization were pretty evident (see part 2 in this series about executive functioning).  But according to one neuropsychologist I interviewed, the real culprit may also be her brain's slower processing speed, one of the most common deficits of all among people who have been through chemotherapy.

Everything takes longer.  That's because your brain is like this huge cabinet stuffed with files and they're all out of order, said the expert.  Eventually your brain will sift through and find what it needs, but not without tremendous effort.

Has this happened to you?  What was your experience like?

Stay tuned for part 4: problems with WORD RETRIEVAL