FIELD GUIDE NUMBER 1: Restorative Power of Nature
COMMON NAMES: Nature Principle, Nature Therapy, Eco-therapy, Nature-deficit Disorder
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The ability of peaceful immersion and interaction with nature to stimulate
FIELD MARKS: Intense gaze, bright eyes, frequent smiles of joy
“Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better.”
– Albert Einstein, From Chapter 16
Who has not gone for a walk outdoors to “clear their head?” Significant scientific evidence now supports why the experience of nature can restore harmony to brain functions, reduce stress, and boost creative thinking to solve problems – a perfect antidote for chemo brain.
Recollections of nature defended and preserved my soul from the pain and suffering of treatment. Thereafter, when I was frail in mind and body, the promise of nature was my link to sanity and nurtured my spirit until I could immerse myself in the outdoors. From Chapter 18 Against the Wind: “An hour on the river and at each new bend, nature pulls me further into its embrace. For the first time in years, I pinch myself to make sure what I see, and feel is real.”
Nature remains my bond to good health – it is a tonic for wellness.
Clifford, M. Amos. (2018). Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature. Newburyport, MA.
Louv, Richard. (2012). The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. Algonquin Books; Chapel Hill, NC.
Williams, Florence. (2017). The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. W.W Norton; New York, NY.
Beck, J. (2017). Nature Therapy Is a Privilege. The Atlantic. Retrieved from www.theatlantic.com…
Greer, C. (2017). The Evidence for Nature’s Healing Powers. The Edge. Retrieved from www.edgemagazine.net…
Selhub, E. (2018). A Doctor Explains How To Take Advantage Of The Healing Powers Of Nature. MBG Planet. Retrieved from www.mindbodygreen.com…
FIELD GUIDE NUMBER 2: Chemo Brain
OTHER NAMES: Chemo fog, brain fog, cognitive impairment
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Brain dysfunction following chemotherapy
FIELD MARKS: Being unusually disorganized, confusion, memory and concentration problems, inability to work or focus on specific tasks
“Quality of life after chemotherapy is critically important, and chemo brain is significant in cancer survivors.”
– Prof. William Helferich
Prior to my treatment, I never knew that I could suffer long-term (even permanent) brain dysfunction. I thought such an effect was only the result of injuries suffered in severe accidents, or ones caused by concussions and drug abuse. I was wrong.
My brain progressively failed to process information in the months and years after my bone-marrow transplant. From Chapter 17 Deer in the Headlights: “Reading overpowers my concentration…Stringing words in a sentence while writing is a difficult task…Simple math eludes me…Phone numbers I have known for decades are unrecognizable…I do not recognize shapes and symbols.” I was unable to readily distinguish between road signs and quit driving. I constantly mistook the woman figures on bathroom for those of men. My thinking was overpowered by cancer-treatment-associated-cognitive change, typically called, jokingly at times, as chemo brain.
One of my primary oncologists, Dr. Russell, told me a few years after my treatment that he believed transplant recipients were affected in ways that were not yet understood. Recently, images of brain tissue have revealed areas of diminished metabolism in patients who suffered from cognitive difficulties as long as ten years after their last dose of chemotherapy. These brain abnormalities correspond to a decreased ability to get through the words on a page, accurately recall paragraphs or pictures looked at a short time earlier and feel clear-minded.
A 2011 study looked specifically at patients who had a stem cell transplant from another person. Although their thinking problems had improved after the first year, more than forty per cent still had mild brain problems that affected their functioning at home and at work after five years. The patients improved in all other areas tested, but they were still somewhat low on hand speed and dexterity as well as word recall. A different study of general cancer survivors five or more years out of treatment reported that ninety-two per cent still experienced various cognitive changes.
After a decade of brain disruption, I was clinically diagnosed as having a cognitive dissociative disorder (cause -chemotherapy). My condition is permanent, but I have learned how to manage the more critical episodes.
At a recent presentation of “Tiger, Tiger” (September 2018) to an All Cancers Support and Networking Group, the ongoing impacts of chemo-brain was the dominant topic.
Silverman, Dan and Idele Davidson. 2010. A Practical Guide to Lifting the Fog and Getting Back Your Focus. Da Capo Lifelong Books: Cambridge, MA.
A comprehensive overview of chemo brain and techniques to mitigate the condition such as the following coping strategies:
- Exercise: Even five minutes of mild to moderate activity may improve mental function.
- Memory aids: Using a notebook, planner or list to keep track of things as they come to mind. A small recorder can also come in handy.
- Treat fatigue and sleep problems: These conditions can worsen chemo brain symptoms.
- Manage depression and anxiety: Easing stress and elevating mood can ease chemo brain symptoms.
- Minimize distractions: Create quiet and peaceful environments at work and home.
Chemo brain. (2018). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from www.mayoclinic.org…
Most patients recover from ‘chemo-brain’ by five years after marrow or stem cell transplant for cancer. (2018). Fred Hutch. Retrieved from www.fredhutch.org…
What Is Chemo Brain? (2018). WebMD. Retrieved from www.webmd.com…
FIELD GUIDE NUMBER 3: Exercise and Recovery
OTHER NAMES: None
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Measurable improvements in cardiovascular performance, strength, and endurance
FIELD MARKS: Purposeful stride, strong balance, quick recovery from physical exertion
A moderate regime of exercise proved to be my lifeline to overcoming years of fatigue and uncertainty (Chapter 19 A New Body). With my buoyant stamina, I became confident that I would no longer face the setbacks in my daily energy levels that had plagued me for several years. When I pushed myself physically, I no longer feared doing damage to my current levels of fitness. My thinking, impaired by chemo brain, improved significantly with exercise.
Michaels, C. and Maria Drozda. (2018). Exercises for Cancer Survivors. FriesenPress, Altoona, MB. Canada
Hibbert, C. (2018). 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise. Noah Publications, Toronto, ON. Canada
Hobson, Alan. (2018). Fatigue Study and Protocol. Climb Back. Retrieved from climbback.com…
Hoffman, M. (2018). Exercise for Cancer Patients: Fitness After Treatment. WebMD. Retrieved from www.webmd.com/cancer…
Tello, M. (2018). Exercise as part of cancer treatment. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from www.health.harvard.edu/blog…