I am writing with regard to the excellent article "Cognitive Damage
May Appear After Treatment Ends" in the January 5 issue.
Being a survivor of colon cancer, stage III with 11 nodes, and having gone
through the ritual of "cutting" (surgery), "burning"
(radiation therapy), and "poisoning" (chemotherapy), I can attest
to the danger of drastic decrease in cognitive functioning with standard
cancer treatment. The chemotherapy agents "carpet bomb" all cells;
they do not spare the very sensitive neurons. I wish research would accelerate
on finding chemotherapeutic agents that target cancer cells only and not the
rest of the body.
As a patient, it is imperative to be aware of this cognitive devastation
and devise and implement measures to counter the poisoning of the brain and
killing of brain cells. My strategy was to devote an hour or two each night
before going to bed to memorize material of interest. I memorized many of
Lorenzo Da Ponti's rich repertoire of Latin poetry, Greek texts by Aristotle
and Homer, and the epic poetry of Persian poets Ferdowsi and Rumi.
In my experience, memorizing is a very effective method of keeping neurons
exercised and alive, and I felt I was successful in warding off the ills and
side effects of my treatment.