Check out this study done by Dr. Jeffrey Wefel at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.

In 2004 he created the first legitimate study of the effects of chemotherapy on neuro-cognitive deficits. One group was a control group who didn’t receive any chemo or radiation, the other group did. Both groups were evaluated before, during, and up to 3 years after receiving chemotherapy. If any person (medical professional or layperson) tries to tell you “chemo-brain isn’t real”, send them this link:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15274059?dopt=Citation

The tricky part is…all of your mental fog isn’t “entirely” a result of the chemo you received. Yes, over the last ten years this, and many other legitimate studies have shown a direct correlation between receiving chemotherapy and neuro-cognitive effects after treatment. However, it’s a little more “nuanced” than: Chemo + You = Mental Fog. The vast majority of people who receive chemo experience mild to severe nausea; so our ability to tolerate eating, or sometimes a significant change in how we perceive what were once favorable flavors, carves  most nutritious foods out of our diet. When we’re doing everything we can to keep from puking (for the millionth time) the last thing were thinking is, “Hmmmm, a Kale and Spinach salad would really hit the spot right now.”

Unfortunately, that adds up over time, and improper nutrition can greatly impact our short-term memory, focus, attention, tolerance for frustration, etc. Not to mention, if you’re like me, you can get “HANGRY” (so HUNGRY you’re ANGRY).

Thankfully, treatment finally ends, but we’ve spent the previous months getting by on whatever random foods happened to get past our gag reflex. I can remember long stretches while I was undergoing treatment when sugar cereal became my favorite food group. That poor nutrition has become a habit. Maybe you’ve expanded your palate to include frozen dinners and mac n’ cheese (and those frozen dinners have chopped up veggies in them, mister!) but that’s not exactly rocket fuel that can propel your body, mind, and spirit. We’re still missing essential nutrition; so we get tired, rely on caffeine, naps, and a more sedentary life– ALL things that aggravate the already aggravating symptoms of chemo-brain! Looking at it this way, receiving chemo is more like the pebble that set off an avalanche. We can’t eat b/c we are sickened by even the thought of food, we rely on foods that are lacking nutrition simply because they are palatable, we are fatigued b/c our body is not getting what it needs, and that fatigue can add to the effects of depression–which can impact memory, focus, and attention (BIG BAD DOWNWARD SPIRAL)

The good news is “healthy” food no longer tastes like cardboard. Depending on where you live there is even Vegan Fast Food. To put things very bluntly; the closer you can get to whole, plant-based foods, the better your body will function and the easier it will be for you to remain conscious, aware, and choose to be happy.