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Caregivers Facing Cancer

Hello Everybody! I am so glad you are here with me today. I am the Proactive Caregiver and I specialize in educating others on how to be proactive by empowering You, the caregiver. If you cannot take care of yourself, then you cannot take care of your loved one.

In my earlier podcast titled "How is Dementia Diagnosed?" I touched on the potential for Dementia to be a result of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy. This is not meant to scare you, if you or your loved one is living with some form of cancer this is intended to inform the listeners. There is still a wide misconception that Dementia is a genetic disease. While I'm sure some may want to dig in their heels to debate this I simply want to add another thought process to the debate.

It is my understanding that Dementia is not a disease but a loss of mental function in more than two areas. Dementia is far more than simply the loss of memory, but is noticeable because of the loss of memory and other mental abilities that affect daily life. It's rarely the sole cause because it may include a series of symptoms that affect language, judgment, memory, spatial abilities, and visual abilities. In regards to chemotherapy, information is still being gathered so there is no definitive answer. When you work in Oncology as my next guess does, then you are able to see first hand the unexpected effect cancer with treatment has towards Dementia-related side effects. Before we get into the details please keep in mind this is strictly based on personal experience and not at all intended to be medical advice or replacement for seeking care for your loved one.

Esther Mbabazi is an in-patient Oncology Nurse who lives in Norway with her husband and two children, ages 8 & 14. She works with patients living with gastro-related cancers. This group includes forms from the esophageal, gastroesophageal junction, stomach, pancreas, intestinal, gall bladder, bile duct, colon, and rectal cancer. Although she loves her job because it is very rewarding to work with patients and their families, it does tend to chip away at her soul. I know this feeling because as we both meet more caregivers it is quite revealing how overwhelming their journey can be when you see their eyes filled with exhaustion and fear of the unknown.

Caregivers spend sleepless nights focusing on the areas they cannot control rather than trying to find the moments of gratitude. Waiting for results from blood tests, MRIs, PET or CT scans, shifting of family duties can be very troublesome. They give their power away allowing the worries to replace peace with panic. The more panic that invades our bodies then the more we expose ourselves to attack on our health by breaking down our immune system before any chemo treatment begins.

Chemo brain or what is also known as Delirium may occur suddenly during treatment such as chemotherapy which is often reversible. These types of lapses in short-term memory may present with difficulty remembering names or dates and problems concentrating. This also is found with certain chemotherapy drugs prescribed to treat many types of breast cancer. Thankfully, for most patients, the chemo brain improves within 9-12 months after completing chemotherapy.

Dementia due to cancer treatment may come on gradually over time after treatment is completed. The very process designed to kill cancer cells also contributes to Dementia through a loss of brain cells resulting in a decline of day-to-day cognition and functioning. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause long-term side effects to the brain, spinal cord, and nerves creating potential hearing loss and increased risk of stroke. Although chemo may be killing cancer cells, technology and pharmacology have improved over the decades and continue to as more studies are conducted. It does not escape the fact that cancer treatments age us by leaving patients with shorter telomeres than persons without cancer at the same age.

Dementia can develop anywhere between 3 to 48 months or longer after the completion of radiation therapy. It may be difficult to determine whether you or your loved one is experiencing Acute cognitive changes (delirium - reversible) or chronic cognitive changes (dementia - irreversible). This is why the health of the caregiver is vital to not only maintain strength in order to provide their loved one the utmost support but to also keenly observe changes daily.

If your loved one has gone through or is scheduling to go through cancer treatments or radiation treatments then please do the following:

  • Keep a daily record of the problems they experience. Include medications, dosages, time of dosage, and behavioral change or response.

  • Ask your family and friends to help in observance of their changes good, bad, or indifference.

  • Talk to your health care providers as soon as possible if you notice a pattern.

  • Make an appointment with a neuropsychologist as quickly as possible so they may suggest interventions to improve functions. Treating the underlying condition often lessens or eliminates the cognitive problems before they become chronic changes.

  • Get plenty of rest and restorative sleep.

  • Talk with your family and an attorney to obtain legal caregiver compliance documents and establish living wills or trusts before treatment.

  • Most Importantly - regardless of your spiritual background - meditate and pray. Even if you are thinking it is of no use or identify as an atheist, meditation has the ability to alter your brain. What do you have to lose? God can take your wrath, your fear, your anxiety and redeem it if you let Him.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite app. If you're not finding it there, then let me know and I will do what I can to get it added!

I hope this gave you more food for thought. Until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.



Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise

Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise

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