When Dr. D confirmed that chemotherapy was a definite course of therapy for me, I immediately ran to Google for assistance. I knew about the hair loss, the fatigue, the nausea. I knew that I would miss more work and I knew that my husband would have to take on even more work at home. I knew that there was a potential for issues with weight (why can’t I be in the skinny group?) and I knew that the
poison chemicals medicine would change my life forever. But the thing I wasn’t prepared for was what some doctors and patients are referring to as CHEMO BRAIN. I was absolutely devastated when I learned about this side effect. I have so many words to say–how would I cope?
Here’s the thing about my brain. Sometimes I think too much. Sometimes I have too much information. Sometimes there is a disconnect between my brain and mouth and I blurt out the wrong thing. I’ve always been pretty quick though, using mental prowess to work at a problem or using light speed mental ability to come up with a sarcastic remark. My brain has been pretty helpful: Good grades in high school, good grades in undergraduate and graduate school. Assistant principal at 33 years old. My goal for 2012 was to begin my doctoral degree and have it all wrapped up before age 40 (there’s still time though, maybe next year). I’m not saying I had it all brain-wise, but I think I had potential.
According to several researchers, the chemo brain “phenomenon” has only recently begun to be studied in depth. Here is a pretty general list of what chemo brain may look like:
1. Forgetting things that they usually have no trouble recalling (memory lapses)
2. Trouble concentrating (they can’t focus on what they’re doing, have a short attention span, may “space out”)
3. Trouble remembering details like names, dates, and sometimes larger events
4. Trouble multi-tasking, like answering the phone while cooking, without losing track of one task (they are less able to do more than one thing at a time)
5. Taking longer to finish things (disorganized, slower thinking and processing)
6. Trouble remembering common words (unable to find the right words to finish a sentence)
Since I began chemo in December, I have been plagued by several of these issues. It’s so frustrating because I usually have so much to say, but I’ll just suddenly space out and…
See? It happened right there! What the heck was I going to say?
I know I have frustrated my co-workers and especially husband. I try to notice my brain drain and be apologetic, and they try not to notice and give me time to find the answer. I think this would be easier if I started out dumber. If I was suffering from low intelligence pre-chemo, people might not notice that I trail off into cloudiness or that I forget what I’m saying mid-sentence or that I ask the same question ten times or that I start saying something and then…
Not sure where I was going with that. But here’s a picture of me trying to look smart with these cool Sally Jesse Raphael glasses: