Keeping the Brain Sharp

Last updated: July 2022

Chemotherapy, turned out, was extremely tough on my mental skills and my memory. My oncologist provided a list of activities I could put to use that would aid in the improvement and maintenance of my mental capacities.

My wife and others brought it to my attention that over the course of my chemotherapy treatment, I was beginning to suffer from memory issues and focus issues. Seems I was also finding it hard to concentrate on any activity I might be performing.

Learning a new language

The items presented were 13 in number and could be utilized in any order, or I could just pick a few to spend more time on. One particular item caught my eye immediately: learn a new language. Over the prior decade, I had learned of my Scottish ancestors and my Scottish heritage. With this in mind, I had always wanted to try my luck at learning Scots-Gaelic. Gaelic is an ancient language spoken by my Scottish ancestors in the Highlands of Scotland.

My father, Floyd Elvis Estep’s (who passed from advanced prostate cancer with extensive bone metastasis Stage IV) parents were Estep’s of England and McCoy’s of Scotland by way of Ireland. The Esteps were leatherdressers and later styled glovers of Pettycoat Lane, Stepney, Middlesex, England. And the McCoys were descended from Clan MacKay of the far northwestern Scottish Highlands.

With my keen interest in acquiring knowledge of the Gaelic language, I immediately chose learning a new language as one of the skills I would concentrate upon. Other items on the list provided me, in no particular order: learn to dance, try your hand at puzzles, teach a new skill, learn a new skill, focus, meditate, do tai chi, build vocabulary, try a new route, listen to music, play cards, and use your senses.

Getting started

Choosing to initially focus on grasping a new language, I searched for a cheap and easy way to start. I settled on Gaelic with Jason, a YouTube channel operated by an educator in Scotland with a vast knowledge of Scots-Gaelic.

During the very first Gaelic lesson, I learned that learning a new language is good for our health and can give our mind a workout. It may even help fight off early symptoms of dementia. With that being true, I concluded learning a new language could surely help me fight off my memory and focus issues caused by chemotherapy.1

You may want to try your hand at one of the other 13 strategies on the list, or you too may want to learn a new language. It does not have to be Scots-Gaelic; maybe your heritage would lend better to French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, or any other language. You may, as I have, find it fun and exhilarating.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.


This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Has prostate cancer changed your life? (Select all that apply)