6 ways to cope with chemobrain
By Beth Dombrowa
You might forget an appointment, or where you last saw your
car keys. Or you might struggle with remembering the name of an acquaintance
you run into at the grocery store. Sometimes after chemotherapy,
people experience side effects of cancer treatment including “foggy” moments or lapses in memory that can be frustrating, particularly
since it can linger for a few months to long after chemotherapy is
complete. Chemobrain can be challenging, but there are methods to help you
Keep a calendar
Between work, family and social engagements, we all have a
lot on our plates. Chemobrain can make keeping up with dates and appointments
even more difficult. Spend time entering important dates in your calendar and
check it regularly. Similarly, make lists of tasks you need to accomplish and
cross them off when you’ve completed them.
Rely on a friend
When you visit your doctor, make sure you mention your
symptoms. Take a friend or family member along with you to your appointments
and ask them to take notes. Physician appointments can be overwhelming, so
you’ll want to have detailed information about what you discussed and
suggestions for treatment. If a supporter can’t accompany you, use a recorder
to tape the conversation to make sure you didn’t miss anything important.
Likewise, make a list of your questions or concerns before your visit to make
sure you’ve covered everything.
Exercise your body
and your brain
Even moderate exercise
a few times a week can help improve memory function. Further, exercise can help
with depression and fatigue that can accompany chemobrain. But don’t stop with
working out your body. Exercise your
brain as well. Work on crossword puzzles, number games or other mentally
stimulating activities that give your brain power a boost.
Set a routine
As much as possible, following the same routine will help
keep you on track. Simple tasks, like putting your keys in the same place every
day and sticking to a normal schedule will help you stay focused. Keep in mind
that deviating from your routine can be distracting.
Get plenty of rest
Being overly tired can wear on anyone’s memory. Get the sleep
you need and take breaks during the day to wind down and relax. When your
schedule gets hectic, you’re more likely to become absentminded. Take time
every day to stop and unwind. If you’re experience trouble sleeping, our Sleep
Center can help you improve your sleep
Load up on vegetables and eat properly balanced meals. Good nutrition
is essential to your overall health, including your mental faculties. Keep a
food journal so you can track how well you’re eating.
MD Anderson offers nutrition
services to help patients cope with diet and appetite issues during and
after cancer treatment.
While patients have expressed frustration with memory
challenges after cancer care for a long time, it’s only been in recent years
that the medical community has begun to study its causes and its treatments.
More studies need to be done, but patients with chemobrain symptoms usually
find that sticking to routines and writing down their schedules, activities and
tasks help to alleviate some of the fogginess they occasionally feel.
If you find yourself fumbling for the right word or puzzling
over a recent event, make sure you tell those around you what you’re
experiencing. We’ve all forgotten things we needed to remember, and your family
and friends will understand and relate.
For more info: 6 ways to cope with chemobrain