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My Chemo Brain

My Chemo Brain

I didn’t really like this phrase to begin with. I didn’t really get it. That’s probably why. But the longer I am on treatment the more it becomes apparent. Chemo brain.

A sometimes fuzzy way of life

It’s hard to describe. It’s a bit fuzzy. Things are slow to connect. Really obvious mistakes are made so you look like a moron. But when it’s business related, you can’t, well I can’t, allow myself to say “sorry, chemo brain. I didn’t mean to make that mistake, that typo, get that date wrong.  I know it really.  I’m not as scatty or as incompetent as I appear.  It’s chemo brain.  I physically can’t help it.”  I keep cancer away from my work. I’m not going to be another therapist who was ill and now wants to fix everyone else. I’m not a Naturopath because of my diagnosis. I haven’t ‘fixed’ myself. Having said this, I think I do pretty well, all things considered. I get a huge amount done and juggle many balls all the time. Especially when exhausted so much of the time.

Add in fatigue

And as the fatigue gets worse, brain function slows down to basically nothing. And I start to drop the ball. Forget the most simple of things. Here’s another example. I have just realised today that I have completely messed up my work email list for GDPR regulations because I was too exhausted last week to engage brain function to check the settings I needed to do on Mail Chimp.  I didn’t clock that I had to send the email out a little differently then normal.  I have, because of chemo brain, completely mucked it up and now only have about 5 subscribers who I legitimately know of because they sent me an email in relation to my opt-in.  So.  Sodding. Stupid.  And I can’t do anything about it except try really hard not to be furious at myself for such a stupid mistake.  It’s not my fault.  It’s just one of those things.  It could be worse.  But, it shouldn’t have happened.

Trying so hard to remember

I also have to wait for the green man on crossings. Well. You should anyway. But you know what I mean.  My reactions are slow. It takes longer to process. I sometimes sit in front of my computer or stare at the kettle because I simply can’t remember what I was doing. Or how to do it. The message takes time to filter through. The worst is when I can’t even remember how to get words out or how to explain the sentences in my head.

So, 11 years into treatment and chemo brain is definitely a thing in my life. I feel my brain slowing down as the day goes on. I know this happens to everyone. The impact can be huge. I might only have an hour or two of clear and focused thinking a day. And that’s normally used up and gone by the time I leave home and get to my desk. Which isn’t really that helpful when you are an adult and running your own business!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Mpn-nhl-mike
    6 months ago

    And I thought it was just me. I originally attributed it to getting old.
    My IV chemo stopped long ago, but I take hydroxyurea daily, which is a type of chemo drug. All day long I forget words to a sentence, numbers, names, just common things. I’ll be in the middle of a story, and ‘boom’ a slight roadblock. I have to try thinking about something else just to try clearing my thoughts. Then all of the sudden, I’m back to normal.but it’s scary for a moment. Imagine stumbling on a word, or name, you’ve used daily for your whole life. Its frustrating to say the least. Now I dont feel so alone!

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    6 months ago

    @mpn-nhl-mike So happy this article resonated with you. Where one may feel alone in their diagnose, there’s someone out there reading these that have found their match in similarities. Best to you!

  • Carole McCue
    1 year ago

    Hi Katie,
    I too have experienced chemo brain. It had been 5 years since I completed treatment and it had improved. For me what remains is forgetting if I completed an immediate task ie did I close the garage door? Did I charge my phone. So I now double check things that I do without thinking.
    Hopefully you too will feel less foggy. Wishing you well. We are survivors.❤️

  • clover1957
    2 years ago

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. My husband starts cycle 6 Monday and he’s dealing with chemo brain. He’s a Colonel in the Army and is waiting to be medically boarded out after 19 years. (Missing his 20 years) He has MDS and is waiting for a donor for stem cell transplant.

  • stronglifenow
    2 years ago

    I am right in the midst of these experiences. Thank you for sharing!! I can be so hard on myself when chemo brain strikes. It really is a shame trigger for me.

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