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I'm new, please talk to me

Posts: 6
Joined: Oct 2007

Hi Everyone,

Help! I am desperate to talk to anyone that shares my feelings and experience. I am cancer free a few months after 32 chemo treatment, 6 weeks of radiation, 3 surgeries (2 lung and colostomy)all in 3 years. I'm good physically but mentally I am a mess. I went back to work in September (last chemo in August), I was so anxious to get my life back. I have struggled with chemo brain, fragile energy and somewhat emotional. I made a big mistake at work because I didn't do something that I should have but didn't think of it. I am afraid of work right now. I feel like a loser since everyone is running past me and getting their things done. They look at me funny as if to say "what's your problem" or "what's wrong with you"? When I am trying to figure something out, I forget what it is I am trying to figure out. My boss has been understanding in the past but has recently asked me if I actually want this job! We talked and came to the conclusion that I had a rough patch and we move on. Don't get me wrong, I am soooo happy to be where I am physically, it's the mental I am a little worried about. Thanks for being there.


daydreamer110761's picture
Posts: 497
Joined: Dec 2008

Don't let other people bother you - you've been through enough. I'm just starting, but post it notes are wonderful - I use them all the time at work. I never know when it will hit, was thinking of keeping them in my car too!

dixchi's picture
Posts: 438
Joined: Jun 2008

I have not had what they call"chemo brain" so far but I do know there are
problems with it after treatment for some people. And I am sure your anxiety
just adds to the problem. Anxiety alone can cause me to be forgetful. It
sounds like your boss was understanding but it is amazing sometimes how
people can be insensitive to another's situation. If your coworkers know
you have been out for cancer treatment maybe they would understand if you
told them you are just having a little problem getting readjusted to work.
I make lists all the time for myself and when I was working (retired now)
I would start my day by taking a few minutes to think of what was on the
day's schedule and writing down some items that I might forget otherwise.
Hang in there, don't think the malady lasts forever and I would not hesitate
to talk to the doctor and seee what is recommended.

Shayenne's picture
Posts: 2370
Joined: Jan 2009

Don't let what others think or say get you down! they have no idea what you're going through, and unless they walk a mile in your shoes, they aren't going to know!

Keep going, and hell, I been forgetting crap since my 20's, my family and friends is used to me, and those are the ones you should care about what they think.. not co-workers..they should be more understanding, and more educated. Just keep on doing what you're doing, write notes if you have too, alot is going at once, focus on you and you will be fine :)

msccolon's picture
Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2004

Chemo brain is a definite phenomenon and many of us are dealing with it in one way or another. I agree with the other posts, definitely carry with you a notebook, perhaps a day planner since it's so professional :)! Sticky notes help as well as reminders on your phone. I've even been known to call my phone and leave messages so I'll remember something later. When people ask me to do something I ask them to leave a message on my phone as well or email me so I will remember. 32 chemo treatments is a lot and you have to believe some of your brain cells are just gone for good! I've been through about 50 of them myself over the last 4 odd years (everybody get out your calculators and figure out just how many YOU'VE been through!), along with 2 full abdominal surgeries and it's just not a lot of fun! However, every time I come through the next procedure I am stronger and more determined to beat the beast! My body's suffered some fallout over the years, but I am glad to be here and able to do the things I am able to do! My boss is very understanding and I believe most people are when they understand the full situation. Stop trying to keep up with those around you who haven't been through even HALF of what you have been through! Give yourself a break!

keepnthefaith's picture
Posts: 37
Joined: Jun 2008

I, too, am back at work after going through surgery/radiation/chemo (although not as extensive as you) and find that I forget things almost the minute after I think about them. I am a nurse so this is not acceptable. I keep a small spiral notebook with me and write EVERYTHING down - sometimes just writing it down helps me remember without even having to refer back to my note. I think at least for me that the forgetfulness is a combination of part chemo brain and part just trying to get back into the "normal" world. Things that use to seem so important now just seem so stupid to me - and vice versa - know what I mean?
Don't beat yourself up. Give yourself plenty of time to readjust to things. Keep an open line of communication with your boss and your co-workers. Give your mental time to catch up with your physical.


dixchi's picture
Posts: 438
Joined: Jun 2008

I had kept on my computer's favorites list an article from the MayoClinic.com website
about chemo brain. It is very informative and does list medical steps and medications
that can be taken to help with memory problems related to cancer treatment. I would
definitely talk to the doctor about the problems and he may be able to help you.

KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

When I got a look like that (and I remember them well), I just stared them down, raised my chin a bit higher. I pictured THEM battling the beast, and found them lacking!!!

You have walked a path that most people (thank goodness!) do not have to in their entire lifetime. This path is for the special, the extra strong, who can do battle with a life-threatening disease, and claim victory at the end! Most people would not be able to handle the truths learned during treatment, including the truth that life is precious, and can be over in the blink of an eye! You are one of the special. Never forget that!

I chose laughter to cover my mistakes. "Darn chemo-brain!", I would say. But, like others, I carried a notebook EVERYWHERE (even to the toilet...lol), and joked that it was my 'auxillary memory storage' or 'extra backup drive'. I'm a computer nerd, so this worked very, very well!

Your boss obviously wants to find the right solution to help you both. Being open and honest with him/her is essential to the process. Ask for e-mails of the tasks he/she wants done...then save each and every one of them to build your 'to do' list.

The biggest thing is to not punish yourself!!! This battle has left you scarred, as it has us all. It's just what you do with your experiences that is important. Remember them, but don't dwell. Accept that you are human, life DOES go on. And YOU have WON the toughest battle possible, the battle for your very LIFE!!!

Hugs, Kathi

Posts: 6
Joined: Oct 2007

Oh my gosh, you ladies are wonderful! I already feel better after reading your messages and just knowing where I can turn. It took me awhile to admit to myself I needed help, just to stubborn to give in. I am glad I did.

Have a great day everyone, I know I will.


lisa42's picture
Posts: 3661
Joined: Jul 2008


I can relate to your mental issues of having "chemo brain". I've been a 5th grade teacher for many years and chemo has now caused me to be barely able to help my 3rd grader with her math homework now. For some reason, anything having to do with numbers has been the most difficult with me- probably because more analytical thinking is involved than is with reading or writing. I am not teaching right now, because I really feel like my memory and thinking skills just aren't where they need to be to do the job and not look like a confused fool to my students and their parents (the kids would be pretty forgiving and understanding, but the parents might not). This past summer,4-5 months after chemo and 2-3 months after my liver resection, I was really starting to feel pretty good again mentally and was considering going back to teach again, but I had a recurrence in my lungs in August- so that decided it & back on chemo I went again.

As other people have already said, definitely write things down (and keep the notepad you write on with you otherwise- if you're like me- you might misplace the paper you wrote things down on- or forget to look at it!) Also- sending yourself reminder emails with the info to remember on the "subject" section of the email so you see it when looking at your inbox might be helpful- it is to me (I actually used to do this even before having cancer/chemo, as I'd think of something for work, I'd send myself an email from home to work email inbox- also I'd leave myself quick reminder voicemails, as well). Do whatever it takes.
I know about forgeting what you're trying to remember right in the middle of trying to think about it. I've thought of things I needed to do later, needed to buy, or whatever & have started to go write it down, only to forget it before I even got to the notepad! Inevitably, it comes back to me later in the day (but not always).

I hope I'm not discouraging your hopes in this memory thing- but remember that I'm still going through the chemo right now- you're done, so it will hopefully start getting better soon. Back in the summer (4-5 months post chemo, before I had to start up again), I was feeling so good, energetic, and mentally was getting pretty sharp again, I really think it was not just time elapsed but also the exercise I had started doing and especially by beefing up my "green" intake. I was exercising, taking more B vitamins and I think the "Vitamineral Green" powder I was taking really, really helped. I call it my "green sludge drink"- it grosses my kids out (they don't know I sprinkle it in several things I make for dinner for them because I can't get them to eat their veggies- a little trickery will get those greens into them!). Anyhow, I got it at Henry's & it's one of the better ones, in my opinion. Another note- I discovered mixing the green powder with grape juice or any berry juice makes it go down much easier than just mixing it with water. I was also taking Mona Vie (acai berry juice) with it for a while. I don't take it now while on chemo because of the antioxidant interfering w/ the chemo, but I will definitely go on it again (or maybe a cheaper counterpart of it) when I finish the chemo again.

Lastly, talk to your boss and coworkers frankly about your chemo brain- let them know it's real, you're working to get through it, but it will take some time and understanding on their part. Maybe even some of the more analytical parts of your job could be reassigned or slightly modified and you could do more of something else that comes easier to you?
As Kathi said, sometimes joking about it can help with that embarrased or uneasy feeling about it around others ("Oh, I'm sorry- I'm Miss Chemo Brain lately- you'll have to send me an email reminder to help me remember this"- or something like that!) No one else can truly understand how it makes you feel unless they've experienced it themselves. Some will say it's just from being stressed- it's true that stress can make it worse, but it's definitely not just from stress- chemo brain is a real, documented phenomenum. You will improve, though- don't be too hard on yourself for it to happen NOW, because your stressing out over that could make it worse temporarily. BREATHE deeply, and let yourself NOT feel any guilt when you can't remember things correctly! You'll be OKAY soon!

Best wishes to you- get plenty of rest, exercise, and start in on some supplemental energy boosters such as I mentioned above- God bless!

CherylHutch's picture
Posts: 1399
Joined: Apr 2007

Awww shucks!! Don't give a second thought to those workers who look at you as if to say, "What's your problem?". Chances are , you are feeling so self-conscious that you automatically THINK that's what they are thinking... when it's quite possible they are thinking, "Wow... what a strong person she is! I can't believe she has come back to work after all she's been through. I would offer to help her but I don't want her to think I'm pity'ing her, because I think she's so strong." and then they walk away because they are not sure what to do. Meanwhile, you've interpreted it as they think you can't keep up. Remember, there's always two sides to every situation :)

As for your boss... again, it could all be in the interpretation. "Do you actually want this job?" could be "If there's something else we can get you to do so it won't be so stressful and ease you back into this job or any other one that you feel you could handle". The fact you came to an understanding that you had a "rough patch", this may be his way of saying, "Ok... let's see how it goes, but the offer is still open... we could put you somewhere that might be a more comfortable fit and you don't have to be stressing out. What you've been through is more than enough stress for any one person to got through. We are here to help you."

Chemo brain is definitely a reality... and from what I've heard, can last up to a year or more after the last chemo treatment. Mine was almost a year exactly... although it got a little better each month. Now, I don't know if I can blame chemo or menopause ... or, heaven forbid the combination of the two!! LOL!



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Mike49's picture
Posts: 269
Joined: Nov 2008

I have started taking a litgtle L-Lysine, in the vitamin section of the store. It is an amino acid and I get the kind with vitamin B-6 in it. What you are experiencing is real, it takes a terrible toll on our nervous system. I agree with Cheryl, (I usually do) that we may interpret what others think differently, because we are self conscious and our co-workers don't know how to interpret our fight, it scares the hell out of them.

You must be tough if you survive all this stuff, good for you NED, be proud, fight on and see if the vitamins help.

MIke Bell

Mike49's picture
Posts: 269
Joined: Nov 2008

I have started taking a little L-Lysine, in the vitamin section of the store. It is an amino acid and I get the kind with vitamin B-6 in it. What you are experiencing is real, it takes a terrible toll on our nervous system. I agree with Cheryl, (I usually do) that we may interpret what others think differently, because we are self conscious and our co-workers don't know how to interpret our fight, it scares the hell out of them.

You must be tough if you survive all this stuff, good for you NED, be proud, fight on and see if the vitamins help.

MIke Bell

kimby's picture
Posts: 804
Joined: Oct 2007

I've only been doing this for 18 months and here's the deal for me: If it ain't written down it NEVER happened! LOL Doesn't everyone know this? Seriously, I write everything down, take notes on seemingly unimportant conversations and use the calendar in my phone for reminders of simple, everyday stuff. It is a pain when you first start but you do get used to it.

Good luck and keep your chin up,


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