Chemo brainTumor is a term used to describe the cognitive decline you may experience while undergoing cancer treatment. Patients often describe it as a “foggy” thought process, marked by lack of focus and the inability to concentrate.
- “I don’t want to hear about your friend, sister, or dog walker’s chemo experience.”
“One of the biggest things patients complain about is how many people share cancer “horror stories” with them while they’re in the middle of treatment,” says Marisa C. Weiss, MD, author of Living Well Beyond Breast Cancer.
- “The most helpful information didn’t come from my oncologist.”
“Yes, doctors are really important. But when I hear that a friend or family member is going through cancer treatment, I tell them to talk to the nurses,” says Dana Kuznetzkoff, a New York film and TV producer who was treated for lymphoma in 2010. “They’re the ones who will tell you exactly what you need to know, like your hair will fall out on the second day of treatment, or expect to be really tired the day afterchemo.”
- “It’s not just about nausea and hair loss.”
When Paulette Sherman was treated for breast cancer several years ago, “I was shocked when my toenails fell off,” says Sherman, apsychologist and author living in Brooklyn, NY. “I knew my hair would fall out, but didn’t remember [my doctor] telling me about the nails. It was a little upsetting at first, because it was one more way chemo was affecting my body.
- “I don’t want to think about cancer all the time.”
You’re much more than a patient. You’re a person with a full life. Your daily routines — even the little things — can hold comfort as an anchor when cancer rocks your world.Still, you’ll want to be realistic and flexible about it.
- “I can’t support you emotionally right now.”
“I told the people closest to me, “I’m happy to tell you how I’m doing when I can, but I need to take care of myself. If you need extra emotional support or more information than I’ve given you, please reach out to someone else,” Kuznetzkoff says. While it was hard to do this, “It was crucial for keeping my own stress levels down, which helped me get healthy,” she says.“I tell patients to have a “point person,” like a spouse or good friend, who can update the people whom the patient wants to keep in the loop,” says S. Adam Ramin, MD, who treats men with prostate cancer.
- “Chemo’s over and I feel depressed.”
Your friends and family may want to celebrate the end of your cancer treatment, not realizing that instead of feeling excited or triumphant, you may feel blue, anxious, let down, or even scared. These feelings are normal, especially in the year following treatment.