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Letters to the Editor
Mental Exercises Counter Chemotherapy
Psychiatric News
Volume 42 Number 7 page 27-27

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.

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