Clearing Chemo Brain

Do you have difficulty with simple mental tasks and short-term memory? Do you feel like your brain is all fuzzy and foggy? Like you’ve got glue between your synapses and the thoughts can’t make the leap into clarity?

I struggled with this for a long time after 42 days of chemotherapy infusions spread out over two years, not to mention anesthesia from seven major surgeries. When I finished my final chemo treatment, I could barely string three sentences together.

A lot of this furry focus cleared up during the first year, but it still persisted. A friend of mine, who only had six treatments, was told she went from being very, very smart to being very smart.

Not good enough. I am a traditionally published author. I need to be able to think and make connections. I need clarity and focus.

The first helpful idea, thanks to Julie Loewenstine, was to take a teaspoon of Brahmi leaf powder (water hyssop) every day. After a year of faithful supplementation, I made noticeable improvement, but I was still frustrated with that gluey sensation gumming up my synapses.

Less than a year ago I talked to my medical Qigong practitioner, Lani Lee, in Columbus, Ohio. She recommended a full month of eating two cups of organic parsley or cilantro every day. I had read that these herbs help pull heavy metals out of the body, and my brain probably had a lot of platinum stored in it from my eight cisplatin treatments. (I call myself the million-dollar miracle woman because of how expensive these treatments are—and I’m worth every penny!) And who knows what else was sticking around in my noggin. So I ate lots of Mexican dishes with cilantro piled on top and drank lots of chicken broth with parsley stirred in.

That helped tremendously, but I still wasn’t there yet.

During the spring I discovered, from reading about how to recover from trauma as part of my research for my next book–Grieving an Addict–that neurofeedback can help. So I started with Kristin Wooten during the summer. It involves sitting in an easy chair with electrodes on the head and listening to music from a computer that is designed to help the brain see what it’s doing and self-correct. Each correction is noted with a blip in the music.

After about twenty sessions, I found this was helping me make that last jump into being able to fully think once again. I am enjoying how my writing flows much better than before, and also has greater clarity.

Of course, many other aspects of my life have helped me clear out chemo brain. And for my writing, my editor, Mary Langford, has made a huge difference. She worked with Master Storyteller Sidney Sheldon for five years and he told her that, in some areas, she was a better writer than he was. I feel most fortunate to have access to her skills through grants from the Ohio Arts Council.

And I feel deeply gratified that I finally have my brain back.

Another advantage of neurofeedback has been its help with persistent insomnia. The local sleep clinic was unable to help me. I haven’t arrived where I want to be yet, but I’m moving in the right direction.

What have you tried that helped you regain your brain?

Clearing chemo brain is a crowning achievement. Photo by Judy Peace while we were celebrating my nine years free of cancer.

1 thought on “Clearing Chemo Brain

  1. I maintain my strict VEGAN diet and avoid foods (like eggs and chicken) which are abundant in two sulfur-based amino acids, methionine and cysteine which form homocysteine in the human body which many cardiologists call the KEY to heart disease (and make your breath and body smell like a rotten egg because of all of that sulfur.

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