|How did you handle chemo-brain?
| Hollye Jacobs, R.N.:
|Chemo-brain is so frustrating—everybody I talk to is disillusioned by it, frustrated by it and, many times, fearful of it, as I was. When I felt it coming on—there were periods when I had it all the time—I just reassured myself that these feelings I was having were a direct and proximate result from my treatment. I remember one time when I was literally driving home, I was on the freeway, and I didn’t remember how to get home. I pulled over to the side of the freeway and was a little freaked out by that, but I said OK, what’s my address? I remembered my address, and I put my address into my navigation system, and that directed me home. I think that when parts of our brain shut down, other parts sort of begin to work. It’s important when you’re really overwhelmed by chemo-brain to just stop…take a couple of really deep breaths…and acknowledge the fact that you’re going to be able to get through it—you just need to calm down and step back.
| Bottom Line
|And how long did it take for it to mostly go away?
|It takes a long, long time.
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|So patience is important.
|It takes a long time. I mean I was a year and a half out, and I still had periods of time where I would have chemo-brain…or I would have acute bouts of it, where I would just forget everything. I would be talking to a friend of mine, and not remember her name, literally. And I would say, OK, this is chemo-brain, and sometimes I said it out loud to not feel like I was crazy. But it varies from person to person. One of the great things is there’s now a lot of research being done on chemo-brain. It’s being acknowledged as something that is very real, and people are looking at ways to deal with it as well. I did a lot of mental exercises…I did brain teasers…I did a lot of reading and then reading-comprehension exercises…I would do math problems. I would really try to exercise my brain, and that helped a lot. Another thing that helped me with my chemo-brain was actually physical exercise. I don’t know if scientifically this is valid or not, but from my perspective, when I exercise and have that fresh oxygen going to my brain, I always felt a little more clear and a little more functional.