This article was taken from "Coping With Cancer Magazine May/June
2003", by Jeffrey Kaplan, MD, MPS, FAAP, and Marie Kaplan
Cancer is very stressful, perhaps the most stress a person will endure.
Add to this the effects of taking chemotherapy and the result is what
many cancer survivors refer to as chemo-brain. For people with
cancer, chemo-brain is a lack of coherence of thought, not remembering
what they are talking about, failing to remember what they are doing,
forgetting phone numbers, and asking questions only to repeat them 15
The following "Chemo-Brain Prevention Plan" may not apply to everyone,
but it can act as a guideline to reduce stress for cancer survivors.
Put things in perspective. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The first
wealth is health." If you are a survivor, you are healthy compared
to the alternative.
Remember that healthcare is supposed to be a caring profession.
Memory loss can be organic, meaning it can have a physical cause
; sometime it is a natural cost of aging. If memory loss is severe,
consequential, or progressive, seek advise from an empathetic healthcare
practitioner - someone you can trust.
Find a way to celebrate life. See what remains beautiful, wholesome,
and gives redeeming value to people. Look deep under the surface
; seek other's positive values, and never allow stereotyping or
prejudices to get in your way.
Concentrate on what matters. Forgetting a phone number is not
as important as remembering a birthday of a significant other.
Don't allow minor events to "rain on your parade"
or become a setback. They are merely inconveniences.
Reduce complexity in your life. It might be a good
idea to break complex tasks into orderly, manageable parts. For
instance, do not paint the house before installing the new chimney.
Take a break. Try deep breathing exercises; even
consider formal training in mind over matter exercises such as transcendental
meditation or yoga.
Eat well and if you cannot sleep, at least relax.
Reducing stimulants such as caffeine (and other such
chemicals) in a diet is always good.
Try not to become frustrated when forgetful, especially
about things of little or no consequence.
Indulge yourself once in a while with agreeable things
that give you pleasure. Go shopping. Sometimes aerobic exercises
Chew! Chewing is a stress releaser. Try carrots,
celery, or gum. Eating complex carbohydrates may help release the
neurotransmitter or chemical, serotonin, which in the brain is associated
with stress handling and calm moods.
Avoid addictive drugs including nicotine, a drug
that smokers claim relieves stress - it doesn't.
Find and rely on significant others. Have the strength
to say, "I'm hurting and feel very vulnerable (or stressed, or unstable,
Align with, or reach out to, support or social groups
such as a church, synagogue, or mosque; seek people with similar
interests as your own.
Connect with others. The Internet, for example, puts
people in touch with others who care, but are not prying.
- Pocket organizers are valuable here.
Finally, treat life and life's stresses one day at