My brain...has disappeared

I finished chemo 18 months ago now and am feeling as if I’m going a bit mad at the mo’. My brain is just sooooo slow, sometimes I can’t even get my words out, and working in a sometimes public facing jpb that’s not good. At least when I had no hair people could make allowances for me…

When I started my current job (3 weeks before I was diagnosed…bad timing!!) I was intending to start a part time Master degree. I’m only working part-time and it was supposed to be an ideal opportunity to start studying again. But I’m finding it a struggle to keep up at work (not work volume, but intellectually) and now I’m now working for my husband the rest of the week too. Studying would be too much, yet I used to work full-time and study in the evening before.

Maybe I’m just tired and the heat has gone to my head. I think I’ll go and have a chat with my GP and mention it to the nurse at my hospital check-up next week. Thanks for listening :slight_smile:


Hi Sarah,

I don’t know much about ‘chemo brain’ and how long the effects of that can last. I’m sure others will chip in here, but there may also be other reasons for the way you’re feeling.

There are loads of posts in the ‘Hormone Therapy’ section about the effects of oestrogen imbalance on cognitive function so it could be that your symptoms are due to hormone therapy if you’re taking it, or maybe effects of the menopause. You didn’t say how old you are so forgive me if this is way out.

In one thread, entitled ‘Tamoxifen Brain’, there is a post from Ann_04 that refers to an article about oestrogen imbalance. The link isn’t very reliable so if you google ‘low oestrogen and cognitive dysfunction’ it is the first link that comes up. I don’t know if this will go anywhere to helping you find a solution, but it might help to know that you’re not going mad and you’re not alone. Whatever the cause, there are a lot of ladies on these forums who are struggling with similar symptoms.

E xx

Hello E,

Thanks for the reply. Sadly I can’t blame hormone therapy for my brainlessness as I had a triple negative cancer so just the surgery-chemo-rads combo for me!!

But you got me thinking with the ‘low oestrogen’ suggestion as I haven’t had a period since chemo finished (I’m 44 now) and when I searched as you suggested I came across an interesting link about isoflavones ( so will mention this when I go to the hospital next week.

I’ve been talking to everyone at work about this and they’re very much of the attitude that I should be grateful that I’m still here and not worry about the fact that I don’t function quite as well as before. Maybe so and perhaps I should step back and see the bigger picture too, but it’s still frustrating when I had such high hopes a couple of years ago…


Hi Sarah

You are not alone! Sorry I can’t offer any advice on what to do, but just wanted to let you know I too have similar problems 20 months after finishing chemo. I am on tamoxifen.
The attitude from your colleagues at work seem a bit lacking in sensitivity-I’m sure its well intentioned, but people on the sidelines do sometimes seem to think you reach a place where ‘being here’ is enough and you should just feel grateful, and can’t feel appropriately fed up about other things. I’m very pleased I had access to great treatment, delighted to be here, and continue to deal with the side effects-but just because you can see the bigger picture doesn’t mean you aren’t still entitled to feel fed up some times!

I read an article in the Guardian a while back, citing examples of this side effect of chemotherapy lasting quite a long time in a lot of cases. It is really frustrating at times isn’t it?
I have to make a lot of lists, and often forget everyday words in the middle of a sentence-I have a similarly public job. I find if I don’t get out what I’m trying to say when I think of it, it just goes, and my multi-tasking skills are not what they used to be. My kids sometimes finish sentences for me at home! Being tired makes it a lot worse for me. It has got better- I felt like I couldn’t retain or remember anything after chemotherapy- so I’m hopeful it may come back, but I wouldn’t be without a notebook or diary.

All the best for the appointment
C xx

Hi Sarah
In 2008 I was also diagnosed triple negative, so no ongoing treatment. I had six lots of TAC chemo first to shrink the tumour (6.5cm x 4.5cm) then double mx (had WLE for DCIS in other side in 2004) with node clearance affected side and three weeks of rads. I opted for no reconstruction. I still have awful trouble sometimes finding the right words and forget doing things all the time and I don’t think these are ‘senior moments’, I am 63. It’s all very well for people to say you should be glad to be alive and you are better now. But there are so many things that remind you every single day. I wish I had been warned of more of the permanent side effects. Peripheral neuropothy I knew about but didn’t know it could be permanent (in my feet). Constant pain in my ribs for which I had every scan going except MRI last year, only to be told it was a result of my treatment and I would have to live with it! The Oncologist said they have to weigh up the possible long term side effects against the necessity of treatment to get rid of the cancer so I suppose again I have reason to be grateful. My hair hasn’t grown back properly and I am bald at the back still, but I have some hair. What I did find helped me put things into perspective and stopped me being so angry about everything that had happened to me, was I had Counselling at my GP’s suggestion courtesy of Macmillan Cancer Support, it was wonderful. I still get a bit upset about how I have been left after treatment, but can now see the larger picture. It does help. I realise this is a massive life changing event and life will never be the same again and am learning to make the most of it. I am walking two or three times a week with friends, have taken up aquarobics and visit my grandchildren who live a five hour drive away from me as often as I can. Life is very precious, I try not to waste a day.
Sorry to bang on so long but there is light at the end of the tunnel
Love to all

Chemo brain is one of the side effects they don’t tend to tell you about, but if you google it you will find out how common it is.

I have found supplements from Kingsgate Health (sold under the name Phyto Power)have helped. If you google them you can find their phone number and give them a ring. They are not allowed to claim any medical benefits for their supplements as no large scale trials have been done (prohibitively expensive)but I was put onto them by a skin cancer nurse who had seen unexplained improvements in her patients taking them. The supplements were developed by a director of the cancer drug discovery group at De Montfort University.