Chemobrain and late effects of childhood cancer

As many of you know we are running a story in the current magazine about ways to combat chemobrain. (You can read the article here.) I talked about Lumosity and its effectiveness and disclosed that it did have a cost. I am sure many of you have seen their ads around town and on the tube.We got a letter from a mom who is caretaker for her grown son who just finished a bout of cancer. He has chemobrain and the cost of Lumosity is really not an option – even less than $100 a year. I know many of you can sympathize with her. She asked if they had a free version, but, of course, they don't. So, I did a little sleuthing and found some other brain training programs that are free and may help. Just put free brain training in your search engine and you will find a number of companies that don't charge. Determining which of the programs works best for you will be trial and error. There are also a number of apps that have free games to play that are definitely brain games. The ones I have tried are all free but have enticements to get you to buy levels or help – or, in what I think is really maddening – to get rid of the ads that pop up regularly. I have dumped more than one of those. I like an app called Four Pictures, One Word that shows you four pictures that are somehow related and you have to figure out the word. Many of these can be played on your phone and keep your brain active while you are just sitting around. Shelli Kesler, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., has published a small book on the topic, Improving Cognitive Function After Cancer, which can be found on Amazon for around $9. She offers some basic ways to compensate and tools to begin, such as a good message system on your phone to remind you when something needs to be done. She recommends setting routines and using self-talk to encourage recall as well as repeating what has been said to you. So if a doctor says take two pills a day and don't forget to exercise, then you say, "What I heard you say was that I take two pills a day and I exercise every day." Another good book for building the brain is Make Your Brain Smarter by Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, chief director at the center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas. Chapman goes into depth discussing the brain and how it works and suggests that more is not better – less when looked at deeply is better. Sounds like thinking to me. It is also available for under $20 on Amazon. On Monday, January 27, I'll be discussing these and other options with Maryann Makekau and Rob Harris on the Because Hope Matters Talk Radio Show at 7 p.m. ET. Join us for some lively discussion around ways to overcome chemobrain. We'll also be talking about another topic in the current issue, that of the late effects of childhood cancer treatment. It's the adult survivors of childhood cancer that have given us the best research in areas of late effects. And we are gaining more and more information on what happens when children who had had cancer grow up. Listen, call in with your comments because someone else will have the same question.