Thursday, December 27, 2007


Today a year ago I started chemotherapy. Although I've written a little more about the long term effects of radiotherapy, I've been realising that I don't think I have entirely recovered from chemo yet either.

In particular, I recently read a little about 'chemobrain' also known as 'chemofog', or more technically, post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment. In particular, as I read this article, I found it described my experience in ways that were surprisingly familiar.

It's not that I can't function, but complex things just seem more difficult, I get tired and confused more easily and have occasional memory lapses. It was much worse during chemo at the start of the year. I had frequent short-term memory lapses, had great difficulty concentrating on a task (and could not multitask) and found my empathy was considerably dampened. I could figure out what someone might be thinking/feeling if I put my mind to it, but it didn't come naturally and intuitively. Instead, my grasp of the emotional experience of others remained a kind of head knowledge without feeling much myself. This wasn't particularly helpful when it was a very emotional time for others! These effects all remain in a muted way (especially getting tired easily).

The research into this phenomenon is all quite recent (the few papers I could find were published in '06 or '07), but one study study that (at least some forms of) chemotherapy had medium-term effects on the physical size of the brain, causing a measurable reduction in size for a few years.

Complicating matters, the whole experience of getting so dramatically sick and then feeling physically (and mentally) weak for months has dented my confidence. Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether I am experiencing loss of competence or simply confidence.

This is another area in which I am learning to trust God, and thank him for the abilities and opportunities with which he has blessed me. I am learning to be human, finite, a creature.

This is the day that the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. - Psalm 118.24

No comments: