Chemo Brain

Well after eight years,

There are still times I deal with some side affects from all the chemotherapy that I went through. I can see that Chemo Brain is still one that affects me daily.

I still have moments of memory lapse and short term forgetfulness. Even though I spend time working on it with puzzles and memory boosting games. It is still frustrating. Even spend time trying to dial-in my diet to help. It’s tough because you try so hard to work on those things.

Things that you really want to better yourself with and ultimately it’s just a tough pill to swallow. Don’t me wrong, I am fortunate that I’m even here and able to work on this issue.

What is Chemo Brain you ask?

To put it simply, it’s a mental cloudiness that affects the learning and memory area of the brain. And most chemotherapy’s are known to affect neuro pathways that help you remember and learn new things.

I really began to notice how bad the chemo brain was after treatment in the first year of remission. And I will say it has gotten better over time. I guess I’m just stubborn and want to see it go away completely.

And I know that won’t happen… I’m continuing to take action to help my memory get better. It’s a long process, and probably one that I will work on the rest of my life.

So what am I doing to help feel like I have control over my chemo brain? There are so many ways to work on the symptoms of chemo brain. So I figured I’d start with three that are most obvious and have had best results with.

1. Exercise

I have to be active! It’s important for me to feel like I’m moving and accomplishing physical things. Whether that’s snowboarding in the winter time or riding my mountain bike in the summertime. Feeling the physical attributes and positivity that comes along with physical activity, helps keep my mind and my mindset in a good place. And I also feel it directly affects the side effects of Chemo Brain.

The toughest part is finding an activity that you will enjoy doing for the long term.

2. Education

I never spent a lot of time reading until I was diagnosed. I mean I did read periodicals like car magazines and science magazines. But never really got into books. Until I was going through treatment. I had a lot of time on my hands and reading was a way to escape the daily fight of treatment. Those games and puzzles like Lumosity or Elevate have been really good for me and are scientifically proven to help the brains cognitive function. Focusing my time on these phone apps instead of social media have been a great way to improve my brain function.

3. Diet

I really believe that over time, tweaking my diet has helped with clarity and over all energy. Eating good balanced meals with lean proteins, starches, veggies and fruit have simplified cooking for my family and my self.

Now I admit, I don’t do it all the time and I do have a few bad habits. But it feel that the amount I exercise does a good job making up for those habits. Sugar is a big one as we know. Cancer cells feed and replicate off of excessive glucose, which your body creates by turning the food we consume into.

The irony is that all cells in our body need glucose to work properly. So how do we fix this? Two ways, one is to become aware of what we are eating. I’m not a vegetarian or vegan. I like meat. Being able to control portion size is a huge challenge. I use to be able to sit down and eat a 12 ounce rib eye with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans in garlic butter, all while washing it down with a tasty adult beverage. Now 4 to 6 ounces of steak, chicken or fish is normal with long grain rice and steamed green beans with garlic pepper and salt.

This is just one example in my conscious awareness of what I eat, balancing what my body needs before, during and after any activity or during my daily routine. Becoming aware of what I’m cooking has made it easier and less time consuming. My family and i are reeling the benefits because of this.

These are a few examples of how I continue to work on my ongoing struggle with chemo brain. And the best extra piece of advice I can give you is to keep working on it and let time be your friend. Patience will only help make living with Chemo Brain easier.

Thanks for reading and have a great rest of your day!

About the Author

Todd Franzen is a Stage 4 Lymphoma Survivor. Living in Breckenridge Colorado

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