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Chemo Brain

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There is this lovely thing called “Chemo Brain” that my mom always likes to talk about. It is her favorite excuse as to why she can’t remember where she put her car keys when they are in her hand.

Almost every chemo patient you will ever meet has experienced this form of amnesia- it is, after all, a documented side effect of chemotherapy that tends to last about 10 years. In a nutshell, chemo brain is memory loss or forgetfulness. For Mom, it is mostly little things that she forgets. A lot of the time she walks across the house to get something and can’t remember what it is she wanted; or she’ll forget what clothing lines she carries in her store, or what she’s saying mid-sentence.

For the most part, chemo brain is comical- Mom will have a brilliant idea that she gets so excited about and she’ll go on and on about it, and within 30 seconds she’ll have forgotten what the heck she was just raving about. But it does get frustrating.

There have been times when Mom has broken down because she feels stupid. She thinks, “I am an educated woman. I own my own business. Why can’t I remember anything?” She has to sit herself down and remember that this is not something that is in her control. She is by no means foolish- she was just handed something that she has to work with and not against.

I can only imagine what it is like to forget things like Mom does. I know we all forget now and then and get mad at ourselves and wish we’d remembered, but that’s part of being human. When you are a cancer patient, however, that trait is heightened. Sometimes, the best way to handle it is with humor. It seems to make things a little easier.

I asked Mom what it was like to have chemo brain. I can tell it gets frustrating, but I wanted to know what she had to say. She wanted to share this with anyone going through it to offer a little help: “Chemo brain really does happen, and it’s ok. It just makes you a better person because it teaches you that there are other ways to conquer adversities. It makes you come up with more creative ways to do things. You can’t conquer it, so you have to work with it.”

In a nutshell, chemo brain makes you forget. But it also makes you learn how to be a better person.