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!"


  1. Loved your comment about buying a noun. Actually, it's usually proper nouns that are the first to go, at least for me. I have gotten to the point where I pull out my favorite line, "I never remember a name, but I always forget a face." -- from LA

  2. Lisa ~ Thank you so much for posting this information. This fits perfect with what is happening with me on my cancer journey. I told my husband earlier that I felt like I was going crazy, I was unable to remember the name of the place we were going for dinner. I had just had made the arrangements with my son and it is my favorite place to eat. I am out of chemo and have started an estrogen blocking drug.
    Thanks for the good vibes. xo

    Susan Ward

  3. Oh my, CRS, I know it well! Thanks for the great piece of writing here. I discovered your blog via Katherine O'Brien and I will be back.

    And I will try to remember to cut myself some slack and also to eat some "brain" food too!

  4. Like Nancy, I found your blog through Katherine O'Brien and read many of your posts. You are "spot on" describing what it's like to live with metastatic breast cancer and I celebrate with you your 14 years--that's amazing!
    I am a member of Metastatic Breast Cancer Network and I invite you to visit our site ( and attend our conference on October 13--Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day-- in Chicago.
    thank you!

  5. Oh how I can relate ... um, what were you talking about? :) Seriously, it is a big issue and gets really frustrating! Unfortunately my memory wasn't great BC (before cancer) and my husband and daughter still don't buy it as an excuse. Need them to read your post!

  6. And I just found you from Nancy and you are singing my song, sistah! There is a webinar on the Army of Women site that is very validating!!! And, CRS is great. We had a doctor take the podium at Sloan Kettering for a "survivor" event. She is a cancer patient. She was discussing her CRAFT. And she stood before a packed auditorium and spoke clearly and proudly: Can't Remember A F*&^&*G THING!

    Can I buy a vowel?

    Love your humor!!!

  7. Damn, that would have been funnier if I typed, F_CK_NG and then asked to buy the vowel. Chemobrain delay!

  8. Oh my, CRAFT! That's hysterical too! I am going to remember that one too! Who said cancer people don't have a great sense of humor! Well, maybe nobody actually even said that...I don't know. "CRS."

  9. Great post about chemo and how if makes your mind very foggy.I love the noun analogy. I love that you said anyone who has been through it knows what CRS is. Thanks for sharing this.-Susan

  10. First and foremost, kudos on making it through 14 years with Stage IV breast cancer. That is so frigging awesome. Secondly, great post on CRS, CRAFT, chemo fog, chemo brain or whatever you want to call the crap we all go through after having our bodies and brains pumped full of poison. I not only forget names, I call people by the wrong name, as well as lose words mid-conversation ("Look, it begins with a "C" but I can't do better than that right now.") I've also forgotten how to spell certain words -- and never the same ones. While this might not be such an issue for a pipefitter or barista, I make my living as a writer, so it ain't good. What is good? Strong, savvy survivors willing to speak the truth about a completely fucked up disease. Thanks so much for sharing and looking forward to reading more of your work.

  11. Thanks guys....I really appreciate if only I could remember what I was going to write about next!!! ;)