Chemobrain and MENSA


A fellow Minnesotan writes about his lung cancer, and his thoughts about intelligence and memory. He also inveighs against the tobacco industry and its powerful marketing campaigns — and acknowledges that, yes, he smoked cigarettes.

I have read your book, ChemoBrain, and wanted to share my experience.   I am six years into remission from serious chemo and radiation treatment.  (You can read about my experience at

When I was entering graduate school I had to take the Miller’s Analogies.  I missed only two of them out of 100, went through the questions twice and still turned it in when only 1/2 the time was gone.

This allowed me to get into MENSA.  My ability for all my life was to see patterns.  I could read various books on a subject, say the brain, without trying to memorize or learn for a course and end up with a decent knowledge of the subject.   This pattern recognition served me well as a psychologist.   I could hear a story and know the etiology as well as the missing or untrue parts because things from the storyteller’s perspective had to make sense.  Coupled with that I was very empathetic in the ability to walk in another shoes.  It was a gift but also a bane because I couldn’t not see the patterns of peoples’ lives. Also my writing skill was to think about something and then simply write it with very little need for editing afterward.


After treatment, my pattern recognition went to hell.  Also my memory as you have recorded in your book but the loss of the pattern recognition was the most obvious to me.  Writing was arduous.  Emotionally, I literally felt in my body a reaction to someone’s tale of physical hurt.  Never had that before. To shorten this, I believe what was most effected was the amygdala and the hippocampus.  These limbic system parts of the brain deal with emotions and memory as well as are routing stations for these activities.


I don’t know if the actual structures themselves were affected or there connections going in and out especially to the frontal lobes.  Also my sense of smell became very acute which may have some connection the hippocampus. My faculties are slowly returning after six years.  Don’t know if it will ever be the same.  Also don’t know how much age is now playing a factor, I am almost 66.

When I brought up chemobrain/chemofog to my oncologist he shot it down.  I explained I was not complaining, I was glorious to be alive but it was definitely an experience.  I explained the MENSA connection and told him I probably would not qualify anymore.   I plan to give him your book. I am writing this both to thank you and if you wish to forward these thoughts to researchers.


Longville, MN


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