While undergoing treatment for cancer, many of us experience the irritating problem of memory trouble, which hampers recalling words, names and phrases that were once commonly known to us. I have also had trouble remembering specifics in my life, such as following through with a thought or an idea. This is what I call an overall problem with functionality. Hence, the much-used, catch-all explanation: chemobrain.
My side effects have ranged from poor concentration, to short-term memory deficits, as well as an inability to recall familiar concepts and speak in a flowing manner depending on the medication I was given. In other words, a problem remembering, speaking and coming up with the correct word or concept at the right time. Altogether aggravating.
In addition to the medication, I also put some of the blame on the stress created after being diagnosed with the illness. I feel that stress made the problem worse; expecting to forget, but trying to remember.
Another difficulty is not being able to concentrate fully. Growing older we might notice some of this, but with chemically-induced concentration failure it sort of comes on quickly. It bothered me greatly.
My old-fashioned solution: write everything down. I use pen and paper or a notebook, but others may wish to use modern gadgets to keep track of what their brain used to do. I have found it necessary to keep records of everything I have done or want to do, in the event I need to assist my wonky memory, which is most of the time.
A large calendar book with plenty of writing space is helpful to me, but I also need a notebook to fill in the blanks. I keep it handy as it’s my new, artificial memory. Basically, everything and anything I don’t want to forget gets written down.
Some examples of this include to-do lists that I number and date; goals like house repairs, finding a gardener, upcoming events that need my attention or items that I may want to read or research; and everyday tasks such as phone calls, appointments, test results and meetings.
Also, it is important to keep up with paperwork. I keep a dairy of what I send out each day. This includes cards and letters because I do not want to send doubles or entirely forget someone (it's happened).
You get the idea. Doing this exercise has helped me tremendously, or rather I should say it has helped my brain process what I don’t want to forget. It takes time. It takes thought. But it is a whole lot better than trying to recreate what you think you did and can’t recall. Plus, if you use pen and paper, you'll be improving your penmanship too!