Beverly McKee MSW, LCSW

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beverly chemo treatmentI had my LAST chemo treatment four days ago and the chemo fog is lifting after this treatment. Many of us laugh about chemo brain, but it is real and it can be very frustrating. For many years, the phenomenon of chemo brain was blamed on stress, anxiety and fatigue. While it is true that these things can impact brain function, neuro-psychological testing has confirmed that chemo does cause changes in the brain. Doctors and researchers call chemo brain a “mild cognitive impairment”.

For me, chemo brain has impacted my memory, ability to concentrate, multi-task and I feel mentally “foggy” for the first week after chemo. It feels as though I’ve had one too many drinks and my processing skills are slightly delayed. In real life, I am a serious multi-tasker, but not the week after chemo. I have to write notes to remember everything and often confuse dates and times. I also exchange words (“Please put the milk back in the dishwasher.”).

According to, chemo brain can cause the following:

~`Forgetting things that they usually have no trouble recalling (memory lapses)

~Trouble concentrating (inability to focus, have a short attention span, may “space out”)

~Trouble remembering details like names, dates, and sometimes larger events

~Trouble multi-tasking, like answering the phone while cooking, without losing track of one task 

~Taking longer to finish things (disorganized, slower thinking and processing)

~Trouble remembering common words (unable to find the right words to finish a sentence)

To my fellow survivors who are going through chemotherapy, please be kind to yourself if you are struggling with chemo brain. Be open and honest with your loved ones and coworkers about your “temporary mild cognitive impairment”. Having chemo brain for the duration of your chemo is certainly tolerable. The good news is that chemo brain goes away after chemo. My chemo brain tends to get better about five days after treatment (please don’t tell my husband as this is my excuse for forgetting things 24/7 ).

As for the rainbow that I always search for through my storm of breast cancer, I am going to use the excuse of chemo brain for the rest of my life. When I am 75, this will be my excuse: “Oh, I forgot your birthday? So sorry...I have chemo brain...remember that I had chemo in my forties.”. I encourage you to do the same! I'd love to hear about your craziest moment of chemo brain...share in a comment or on our Facebook page!

Thanks for reading!

Beverly McKee, MSW, LCSW

© Copyright 2012-2013 Beverly McKee. All Rights Reserved.

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