Sunday, July 22, 2012


CRS.....if you've been on chemo...or if you are a woman of a certain age, you'll probably recognize this.....for others, a polite way of putting it is "Can't Remember Stuff."  For most people, when you have occasions where you can't remember a person's name, a noun, or whatever, you just chalk it up to forgetfulness.  For a breast cancer survivor(and I'd warrant other cancers as well), particularly a Stage IV survivor, that forgetfulness makes you fearful that maybe you now have brain mets.

Take a deep breath, and let it out slowly.  Fortunately, this isn't really the case...and for most people, it won't turn out to be cancer in the brain.  "Chemo brain" used to be laughed at, and doctors didn't really believe in it...but talk to any cancer patient who has gone through chemo and they'll tell you that they are foggy and that things they used to be able to remember don't come as easily to them.  I rejoice that not too long ago, someone actually did a study on it and discovered chemo brain is real. You can read up on it here.

If you say "But I've been off chemo for months!"  In actuality, I usually found that it took at least six months for side effects to go away (some go more quickly than others) and it will take up to about 18 months for most of the side effects to least that has been my personal experience each time I have gone through chemo (and stopped for any length of time).

In addition to chemo causing the fogginess, a lack of estrogen, particularly in women who have gone through either chemical induced menopause, surgical menopause or regular menopause, can cause the synapses to go a bit off.  Fortunately, that condition usually rights itself and you don't continue to have the problem.

Another reason for forgetfulness, or chemo brain, may just be out and out stress.  Being in stressful situations also makes you forgetful.  Also, if your diet has been poor, or you're not eating enough or eating things which are primarily highly refined carbohydrates, you may not be giving your brain good fuel.

So cut yourself some slack, and go eat some good brain food...cold water fish, nuts, things low on the glycemic index.  Fruit is also good...particularly bananas.  And when you're really in trouble and can't remember someone's name, just shout out "I'd like to buy a noun!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Funerval!

Tea at the Willard
Not too long ago, on the Inspire message board for Metastatic breast cancer, someone posted that they recently had a "Funerval."  She dubbed the term, and said that as most people would really love to attend their own wakes, why not have a "funerval" to appreciate them while they were still alive? What a great idea!

The guest of honor gave the list to someone who organized it, and it was a big party for everyone to enjoy and appreciate the honored this case, someone who was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.  The cancer patient didn't do anything, the friends all pitched in and they just had a big party.

What a great idea...and you could even hold anniversaries...although, I think doing it for 15 years is a little long....I DO love a party.  This photograph is the closest to a party I's Maggie, me and Lourdes having tea at the Willard Hotel.  Maggie is a breast cancer survivor of 8 years, and Lourdes so far is cancer free, although her husband had breast cancer and her mother died of advanced breast cancer....and Lourdes is Maggie's sister. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Worrying about the Future

Yesterday, someone was talking to me about waiting  to have a scan...she was terrified..."What if it shows something is there?  What if it is back?"  So many people who have had cancer or other life threatening experiences continue to live looking over their shoulder....fearful that something is going to happen.

Generally, I don't do this...Don't get me wrong, there were times in this journey when I is only human nature, but I have never let that fear run (or ruin) my life.

 The way I look at it is like this....This is a daylily...each flower lasts just one day....but oh, during that one day, it is just glorious....Does it worry about the fact that tomorrow it won't be? That it will be an ugly husk of  a flower? No.  In fact, it is as it should be....the flower served to pollinate another flower and the plant will make seeds.

We have the ability to continue to look over our shoulders at something which might happen....something we have very little control over...or we have the ability to look forward.  I suggest looking're less likely to fall on your bum.

Some things to consider.  If you are really having difficulty dealing with fear of recurrence or fear of scans/tests, then I suggest that you talk to your oncologist or general practitioner. Perhaps some counseling will help, either through a therapist or perhaps a trusted clergy person.  Some people do find that they need anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs.  In fact, one person I know has to take a sedative before getting a PET scan because she is so wound up about it.

I would also highly recommend yoga, qi gong, and meditation.  All three practices focus on the here and now...not yesterday, not tomorrow, but the now.  Concentration on breathing helps when you have an anxiety attack, and meditation can also help in how you approach your fears or anxiety attacks...and indeed they have proven to improve your general health.