Chemo Brain Strikes Again

Have I told you about my chemo brain? You would think that four years out I would have re-gained some of my gray matter by now…but evidently that is not the case. For those of you who don’t know, my brain does not work as it used to. Details have always been my thing…I am a multi-tasker extraordinaire. Think wedding planner… on steroids. (Those of you whose weddings I did can attest to this fact!) It comes with having four children and an ADD husband who doesn’t notice any details at all. Just managing all their activities requires you to either quit (not really an option) or to get organized. So I became a scheduling wiz. I could get them all to different places at all different times, and still have dinner cooked when we got home. This management capability is part of who I am…or it used to be.
Then cancer happened. Survivors before me would ask me during my treatments about how my chemo brain was doing. I didn’t know what they were referring to, at first anyway. Then I started forgetting things. That had never happened to me before…I am not kidding. If you asked me where the tape is and I could tell you which drawer, which side of the drawer and what it was under. Post treatment, there were days I couldn’t finish a sentence. I would stop in the middle and the kids would just look at me. I would ask, “Was I saying something?” We made a game out of guessing what mom was trying to say when I couldn’t find words. “We need to go to the place where you get food.” And they would guess, “Grocery store?” Needless to say, this was most frustrating for me. But of all the exasperating things the scheduling was where we saw the most blockages. I would write down a time on a day in my calendar. No name, nothing about where we were to be or with whom. There was a time when Bill called me to ask where I was. He was meeting me at the oncologist’s office.
I said, “I am in the waiting room. Where are you ?”
He said, “I am in the waiting room waiting for you.”
I was at the wrong office in the wrong city. He had gotten off and driven an hour to meet me. I had gotten off and driven 45 minutes in the opposite direction. That day I knew I was in trouble, because Bill got the time and place right. We had switched places. Let me tell you, that verse that says “judge not lest you be judged” will come back to bite you every time. I had new compassion for his ADD brain and no longer make fun of his first acting role of the scarecrow in Oz… “if I only had a brain.” There have been numerous gaffs since that day, including taking kids to the wrong doctor or arriving on the wrong day. My emotional state each time is one of tears and feeling completely inadequate. How did I used to be so good at this and now cannot be trusted with such simple tasks as writing on a calendar? It is a humbling experience.
So today when I arrived at the correct doctor’s office, at the correct time, on the correct day I was proud of myself and how far I have come. Then I found out I had the wrong month. Tears threatened to fall, my emotions are close to the surface lately. Then instead of crying I smiled….laughed even. Here we go again. I took a half day and drove 45 minutes to make this appointment. Fortunately, they had an opening at 3:15 which gave me just enough time to enjoy a coffee at Starbucks and write you this note. And now, I must post this and leave to make my appointment, if I remember the time correctly. The moral of the story is sometimes you just have to smile and make the best of it…and take time to smell the coffee.

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One thought on “Chemo Brain Strikes Again

  1. Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the
    power to forget, is a necessary condition for our
    existence. (Sholem Asch)
    A good story teller is a person who has a good memory
    and hopes other people haven’t. ( I.Cobb)

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