Pinky Pie

The end of chemotherapy, ‘Chemo Brain’ & Me

Posted on: December 30, 2009

Celebrating the end of chemotherapy with oncology nurses. They asked if I wanted the photo with or without my hat. I chose without. With a mane of hair like this, it's time to show it off with pride.

Done. Finished. Ended. Completed. Accomplished. Concluded. Fulfilled.

You get the picture (or at least can see it on the blog.)

Yes, I’ve had the last of the eight chemotherapy treatments in 2009 – just under the wire, perhaps, but done. I’m fortunate because it was an intensive regime of every two weeks instead of every three. It meant I had less time to rest, but was sure worth it at this end.

I’m not done with all treatments – I’ll have six weeks of radiation, hopefully in La Crosse but still up in the air, and ten years of an oral medication to prevent a recurrence. I’m all for preventing a recurrence.

You can see by the photo that a bit of a celebration is held at the end of the last treatment. Franciscan Skemp nurses sang, give me a certificate of accomplishment, a balloon and a cake that says “Congratulations Susan.”

My accomplishment, I joked, was “for being a good receptacle for the poisons you gave me.” These wonderful nurses laughed.

Suitable for Framing

Chemotherapy is poison that we hope causes more harm to the cancer cells than to the receptacle.

And what of the notorious side effect, dubbed “chemo brain?” The American Cancer Society said about 70 percent of patients get this fuzziness of the brain, which includes such symptoms as:

  • Forgetting things that we usually have no trouble recalling
  • Trouble concentrating and focusing
  • Trouble remembering details like names, dates, and sometimes larger events
  • Trouble multi-tasking, like answering the phone while cooking, without losing track of one of them—less ability to do more than one thing at a time
  • Taking longer to finish things—slower thinking and processing
  • Trouble remembering common words—can’t finish a sentence because you can’t find the right words


I never had trouble multi-tasking, that’s for sure. I can’t do one thing at a time. And I’ve long said that I spend half my time losing things and the other half searching for them. I do struggle at times to find the right word, but is that chemo or just me at age 57?

Mostly, I think that my brain is A-OK. I have two things to thank for that, beginning with Facebook Scrabble. Yes, as someone suggested I might need a twelve-step program for it. I have 40 to 50 games going at any one time. (You just play the ones in which it is your move.)

Even in the darkest days, I played game after game on the couch with my MacBook on my abdomen. It kept my mind occupied and challenged. I absolutely loved it.

The second wall against chemo brain is this blog. It’s been great fun to chronicle my experiences in my own crazy way. I tried to find the humor in all this, but still acknowledged my pain, fear, and nausea and, yes itches and other internal challenges that my daughter felt was too much information.

But as Michael said yesterday, “Mom, you are one of a kind.” And, I am not shy about admitting it.


7 Responses to "The end of chemotherapy, ‘Chemo Brain’ & Me"

Congrats! Good riddance to the chemo and even though you’re done, done, done, please don’t be done, done, done with the blog. Love you!
-Maggie and Mike

Susan, You are a truly beautiful person! I will bring this page to work and share with the girls-they will be tickled PINK! Will miss your smiling face, but hoping 2010 brings you much Happiness and a quick recovery!! will keep you in my prayers..Pam F

Mazel Tov!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
However, the “brain” symptoms you described seemed to be the same ones for menopause, so you had a double whammy. I know, I know, I’m pushing it even to suggest you might be on the down side of menopause, but I’ll take my chances. At any rate, I am thrilled for you to be done being poisonous; now you will simply radiate.
PS. Can you show me how to play online Scrabble?

I fully expect you to kick my ass regularly now at Scrabble. No more “chemo brain” excuses for you, my friend. You have fought a very difficult battle in saving your life…and have won!!! You have a great general in leading this battle with your grace, humor and courage. My hat is off to you….because I have hair and you will have yours back soon!

Thanks to all – family and friends.
Julie I’m not sure I’ll kick your ass because I don’t think my brain was that affected. Others may disagree.

Who would think a balloon and a cake could mean so much? Congratulations on successfully completing chemo. You really were a trooper and I didn’t think you whined much at all. 🙂 Keep on bloggin’!

Now that is a ringing endorsement. I may have whined more in my head. 🙂

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