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Chemo Brain ?

mary colleen

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My husband finished had a lobectomy in October, and finished chemo with Gemzar/Cisplatin in late January. He has recovered well physically, is back at work, and was fortunate enough to have a clean CT scan in February. He is still somewhat fatigued, but I think that is probably to be expected, since we are only about 10 weeks out from the completion of his chemo.

The only thing that seems to be a little bit out of place is a cluster of recent symptoms that seem a little odd. Maybe they're not, and I'm curious if others with experience may be able to weigh in.

- He has become very forgetful. This has been very apparent in the last couple of weeks, but maybe it just wasn't as noticeable during chemo when he was not working much or doing much. He is normally the least absent-minded person I have ever known. There are lots of small example of the forgetfullness, but the big one took place last weekend. On Saturday, he took my car to Wal Mart - he drives it often on weekends. When he left Wal Mart, he forgot that he had not driven his own car, and thought it had been stolen. He reported it to store security, filed a police report, called home for a ride, etc. I can understand a momentary lapse - who can't - but this apparently went on for the two or three hours it took to search the lot, report it, fill out a police report, and call home for a ride. He had not even considered that he might have been looking for the wrong vehicle until I told him that his car was at home.

- On his job, he drives from subdivision to subdivision all day checking on crews doing finish work on homes under construction. He's done this for years. He told me on Saturday after the car incident that he is having difficulty on the job because he is getting lost several times a day. This really surprised me because it is so out of character.

- Tonight he told me that he is having vision difficulty at work. I wasn't able to grasp exactly what he was describing, but it was something about things he is looking at fading out visually, particularly when he is under fluorescent lights. He's a hard one to question, because he will cease communicating if I ask too many questions, but he said it is getting worse.

Anyway - I've heard and read about "chemo brain", and I also know that his body has undergone a big assault in the last 6 months.

I'm wondering if any of this sounds familiar to any other survivors or caregivers? Does it sound like the temporary post-chemo cognition changes that seem to happen to some people?

Any input appreciated!

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It's probably nothing. I've discovered that each time I go under anesthesia, I add to my foggy brain. BUT, any time I get concerned over the things I'm forgetting or getting lost while driving too often, I talk to my doctor. It usually means I end up shoved in a tube with a magnet circling my head to make sure there are no "critters" hanging out up there, and THEN we can focus on what it isn't, quickly getting the most horrid thoughts under control.

Could be longer-term side effects from his chemo, could be the surgery, could be stress, could be all of those things and more... If only his doctor could prescribe a 30-day vacation in the tropics and have the insurance foot the bill! Bet his memory would be better after THAT...

Talk to the doctor, rule out the worst case scenario, and then work on things to help his memory...crossword puzzles are good to keep word recall going (I have "word finding" problems at times). Can't help too much with the getting lost with driving, I STILL experience that...but don't remember running any red lights lately. (Truth be told, the first time I talked to my doctor about it, I had run a red light making a left turn with my husband as a passenger. I STILL have his finger indentions on my dash board...)

I'd suggest writing notes, but I do that and then can't remember what the damn note was for because I don't remember why I wrote it! It should level out some, I would suggest he makes sure to get extra sleep at night, maybe 9-10 hours. A good night's sleep can make all the difference...

Good luck!


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When you mention eye symptoms it makes me think he had better report these symptoms to his Onocologist. He may need a brain scan to check and be sure he has no brain metastasis to be safe. If so he could have them zaped with radiation.

I had Cisplatin for chemo ( 2 rounds) and I blame it for being forgetful, as can't remember a name or word even though I feel it is just on the tip of my tongue. I don't learn things as easy as I used to. So it is fairly common problem after chemo. I still would advise you to have it checked out.

Donna G

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Mom forgets things she has told us--my kids have learned to be patient with her telling or reminding them the same thing over ad over. She forgets important things the Dr has told her (she forgets she even asked the question!), so we make sure she is accompanied on every visit.

We attribute this to chemo brain. I think that, with is other symptoms, I would present it to his Dr.

Keep us posted. Lots of prayers for you.

:) Kelly

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Hi mary colleen,

I can understand the wal-mart incident. If your husband had a clear functioning brain previously, then he would be very certain that things were as he thought they should be. This more than likely took away most of his self-confidence in his own thinking.

And I think the getting lost thing would be normal too. I've noticed that my memory - which used to be excellent before lc - really declined and I had to learn to second guess myself and what I believed.

It is really hard to adjust. Just remembering how to spell words can be difficult. Ithink it is normal reaction to either the chemo or maybe post traumatic syndrome.

BUT the vision problems could be a sign of brain tumor or maybe heart problems. So I was wondering if your hubby ever had head ct or mri?

I hope you can get hubby to discuss with his GP. The vision problems sound like it could be more serious. Plus, if your hubby is like mine, he might not be telling you everything....

Hope this helps, Barb


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Thanks, all, for your input. I admit that a brain met has crossed my mind, but - they say that brain mets are a bit less common with squamous cell LC (which is what he has) than they are with adenocarcinoma. In addition, he did have a clean brain MRI back in September. Nonetheless, he has an Onc appointment in about 10 days, and I am going to call ahead and advise the nurse of the symptoms. These symptoms are hopefully chemo related, but better to know and treat quickly if they are not. In the meantime - no more unaccompanied trips to Wal Mart.

Hoping for the best for all of us - MC

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Tonight he told me that he is having vision difficulty at work. I wasn't able to grasp exactly what he was describing, but it was something about things he is looking at fading out visually, particularly when he is under fluorescent lights. He's a hard one to question, because he will cease communicating if I ask too many questions, but he said it is getting worse.

I re-read what you had written and at the end, you say that he said it is getting worse. I'm not sure that I would wait 10 days to see the doc to wait another 4 days to get the MRI done. I'd call the doc Now and get an order for the MRI.

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