Tips on Dealing With Memory Loss
Memory loss is not only for those suffering from brain injuries, diseases that affect the brain, or old age. Many different factors can cause short or long-term memory loss.
For those living with advanced breast cancer, there are two leading causes of memory loss, medication, usually chemotherapy, and brain radiation. It is terrifying for someone who has never had memory issues, especially those of us diagnosed with cancer at a young age.
Chemotherapy related memory loss
Chemotherapy memory loss is also known as chemo brain. Chemo brain is constantly feeling like your brain is in a fog.
Chemotherapy medications can cause you to forget words, names, the words to finish a sentence when speaking to someone, and other things, like where you placed something and appointments you have to attend.1
Brain radiation related memory loss
Brain radiation can be very hard on your memory and cognitive function. Depending on the type of radiation you have, you may have a small amount of memory loss or a large amount of memory loss. Whole-brain radiation seems to have the most harmful side effects on memory and brain function.1
As someone who has endured whole brain radiation, I can tell you that memory loss can be severe and scary. I will forget words and stumble over what to say because I cannot get the words out.
Cancer-related memory loss
So what can be done about cancer-related memory loss and cognitive decline? Here are some of my tips for dealing with memory loss.
- Firstly, do not freak out. So many times, I would get tons of anxiety while trying to have a conversation with someone and forgetting what I was even saying. Occasionally I would forget the names of family members. It's terrifying, but if you get all worked up, it will only worsen things.
- Sticky notes are your friend. Buy yourself the extra sticky notes and write down everything you need to remember. Stick them on the fridge, your bathroom mirror, next to your bed, or on the front door.
- Buy a yearly planner. And ensure it has lots of room to write things down. You need a space for not only appointments but also notes, your daily medical symptoms, and your to-do list. There are lots of good ones on Amazon.
- Keep your mind sharp. Playing mind games, crossword puzzles, word searches, and even reading a good book. Like to play on your phone? Multiple apps claim to help with memory and keeping your mind healthy.
I know it can be tough to deal with the side effects of cancer treatments, especially memory loss, but know that it is not the same as dementia or Alzheimer’s, so do not fear that.
Memory loss is simply one of the things we must deal with in the cancer world, but with these tips, I know you can keep your mind sharp and fight through it like the warrior you are.
Have you participated in a clinical trial?
Join the conversation