Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chemo Brain

As if a Stage IV brain tumor isn’t bad enough, the chemo treatments add insulting fogginess to injury. What do I mean by “fogginess”? This article posted on the WFAA website explains it better than I can:
Perversely, the website posting itself seems a bit, well, foggy and difficult to read with type running into the next column. So I’ve cut and pasted the entire article here for you to read.


PS – And here’s a link to the American Cancer Society description of “Chemo Brain”:


PLANO — As her balance improves, so does Donna MacKinney's brain, which seemed after treatment for a Stage IV brain tumor to be clouded in fog.

"The little things that should be so every day will not come to me," she said.
MacKinney is a middle school librarian who loves her words, so the mental haze she was experiencing was very frustrating.

The condition — known as chemo brain — was once thought to be psychological. And while no one knows why it happens, it is a common side-effect of chemotherapy treatment.

A new rehabilitation program at Texas Health Plano, called the STAR Program, aims to clear that fog.

"What we're doing is basically working with cancer survivors to address their physical, mental, and occupational impairments," explained physical therapist Brooke Ellis. "Anything from fatigue, weakness, balance and gait disorders, our speech therapists address chemo brain."

For many years, cancer treatment has been focused primarily on survival. Side effects were considered a necessary evil. But cancer treatment is evolving to treat the whole person, rather than just the disease itself.

"And I think that's what we need to educate people that now that these side effects can be treated, and their quality of life greatly improved." said THR Plano oncology program manager Carinsa Gaston.

She hopes other hospitals and clinics that treat cancer patients will begin similar programs.

Exercise, for example, would seem to further deplete an already exhausted cancer patient, but it actually does the opposite. Therapists can work on balance and stamina, so cancer patients who have difficulty walking across a room can instead enjoy a walk around their neighborhood.

Donna MacKinney had been given 10 months to live.

"The tumor was humongous," she admits, "And the prognosis was very grave. But here I am!"

With the help of the STAR program, MacKinney is planning to get back to work — full-time — as a librarian. Enjoying words, instead of searching for them through a fog.”

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