Thursday, May 17, 2007

Chemo fog

My Mississippi demographer friend Susan Mitchell has an article in Salon this week about her experiences with chemotherapy the last couple of years: This is my brain on chemo 05/14/07.

As the title indicates, it deals in particular with the side-effects of chemotherapy for cancer on the brain, the memory in particular. She writes:

Among cancer patients, "chemo brain" refers to both the immediate and the long-term effects of chemotherapy. I started chemotherapy in the fall of 2005. At the end of my first round, I was in a thick fog. Simply scheduling my next appointment was difficult for me. Two older women who were also patients at the cancer clinic kindly offered an explanation for my fumbling mind: "You have chemo fog." Among the more experienced cancer patients, this was a well-known phenomenon.

... Arguably, the shock of being diagnosed with cancer, the disorientation of being suddenly yanked out of a normal, healthy life and thrown into the world of life-threatening disease - the Big C variety no less - could be responsible for my mental lapses. But that degree of difficulty had to have an organic source.

... As more of us survive cancer, I would not be surprised if our post-treatment problems spawned a new branch of medicine. There will certainly be a demand for it, because however grateful we are for the treatments that battle cancer, I cannot imagine that many of us will quietly accept being left with a much diminished self, particularly those of us who are members of the boomer generation. If we can overcome cancer, surely we can overcome almost anything else.
I should add that when she refers to the "boomer generation", she's very literally an expert on the subject, generational issues being one of her main specialties in demography.

Susan also has a blog with one of her colleagues, Cheryl Russell, called

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