The male brain is odd enough (I heard those amens ladies!), apply some chemotherapy to it and the results can be, well, let’s just be kind and say … interesting. A typical generalization is that men are driven to solve problems while women are motivated by emotion. Us guys try to fix things, that’s what we’re wired to do. Note the word ‘try’, because we’ve been known to make things worse (I know ladies, I know).
One of my favorite stories is from the book And In Health by Dan Shapiro, PhD. On pages 143-144 Dan tells the story of a couple talking, then laughing, about how lucky they were when the chemo brain affected husband nearly burned down their house after forgetting he was cooking something on the stove. The lucky part was that the overflow from the bath he forgot he was running upstairs crashed though the ceiling and put out the fire. I laughed until I cried at that story. Check that off the bucket list.
My story is not nearly as dramatic but is probably not uncommon for the types of distorted plans men can come up with under the influences of chemo brain. As patients, we are given time between chemo cycles so our bodies can repair before the next toxic assault. Well, tumors are a part of the body and they can regrow and repair between chemo cycles too, some drugs may even contribute to that process. I wasn’t about to let that happen without the potentially ‘normalizing’ affects of exercise, which I hypothesized would influence, in my favor, any regrowth or repair that my lymphoma tumors might be trying to do.
After my chemo cycles I often had low blood pressure, which caused me to become dizzy from standing up. A cancer specialist physical therapist told me a technique of pumping my legs before standing up to raise my blood pressure. This helped. However, that first day home, I was concerned that my plans for walking on the treadmill might be dismantled by my low blood pressure, so I fired up the chemo man brain for a solution.
I decided I would text my wife ‘ok’ every 5 minutes while walking on the treadmill. If she didn’t get a text then she should call the EMTs. Great plan I thought, some of you guys are agreeing while others are already improving on the man plan – you should have done ‘face time’ or done such and such. The other brains, women’s, are rolling their eyes, just like my wife did at work while she and her colleagues agreed that my plan was the dumbest they had ever heard of.
The walk went well. I actually felt better since my blood pressure increased due to the physical exertion. Afterwards I continued to feel better than before the ‘workout’ (1.36 miles on treadmill at a max of 2.7 mph & 0% grade for 30 minutes – slowest of my life). When my wife came home that evening she reiterated the stupidity of my plan. “I had the front door unlocked for the paramedics” I told her. “Well you forgot to tell me that” she replied, as if it even mattered. “Why didn’t you just wait until I came home from work?” she asked. “I didn’t think of that” I replied. D’oh! Chemo man brain.
If you have a chemo man brain story I’d love to read it. Post a reply! Thanks!
Therapy-Induced Acute Recruitment of Circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells to Tumors. Shaked, Y., et al. Science 313, 1785 (2006): DOI10.1126/science.1127592 http://www.sciencemag.org/content/313/5794/1785.full.pdf
NORMALIZATION OF THE VASCULATURE FOR TREATMENT OF CANCER AND OTHER DISEASES. Goel S., et al. Physiol Rev 91: 1071–1121, 2011 doi:10.1152/physrev.00038.2010 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3258432/pdf/nihms348021.pdf
Physical activity and tumor vessel morphology among men with prostate cancer. Van Blarigan, E., et al. http://mb.cision.com/Public/3069/9520261/82b38a3d9391d0bb.pdf
Exercise modulation of the host-tumor interaction in an orthotopic model of murine prostate cancer. Jones, L.W., et al. J Appl Physiol 113: 263–272, 2012.
And in health A Guide for Couples Facing Cancer Together. Dan Shapiro, PhD., First Edition, Trumpeter Boston & London 2013, ISBN 978-1-61180-017-3 (pbk.)
You can find out more about Ken’s treatments and training here.