Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chemo Brain!

Have I told you guys about Chemo Brain yet?  Probably.  I first heard of it when someone was telling me I should call her friend who had just finished chemo.  She said that she'd tell her friend that I was calling, but because of her friend's Chemo Brain, she might not remember who I was when I called her.

And let me just apologize really quickly about this - in the past few months, I've probably had...maybe 20 people offer this to me - they give me their friend's/aunt's/grandma's/cousin's number, saying, "Hey, my ____________ has gone through this; they can offer you some good advice."  And I've meant to call them; I really have.  It's just that...I get soooo overwhelmed.  I'm on the phone sooooooooo much with friends and family and insurance and doctor's offices already.  I think I'm kind of tapped out on phone usage.  So I just want to apologize to you if you've offered me the help of a friend and if I haven't called them yet.  I had this cute lady in my parents' ward who gave me the number of one of her co-workers who's just starting on chemo; she wants me to call this lady and give her encouragement/advice, and I'm really hesitant to do so.  If this lady is anything like me, she wants the phone to just freaking stop ringing.  You know what I mean?  I don't know.  Maybe I'll just text her and say, "Hey, I'm your coworker's acquaintance.  I'm almost done with chemo [which is a huge overstatement, probably.  Two chemos left does not an "almost done" make...], and if you need any advice or insight into the process, just call me."  I just really don't want to annoy the poor gal.

Kay.  So.  Back to what I was talking about.  When I read that this girl had this Chemo Brain thing and forgot stuff all the time, I was, of course, alarmed.  I thought, Not only is this stuff going to poison my body and make me feel really sick and horrible, but it will affect my BRAIN FUNCTION??

Unfortunately, Chemo Brain is very, very real.  I mean, I don't know if you'll read about it in scientific journals or whatever.  But in my experience, and in many chemo patients' experiences, yep, it's real.  And yep, it's sad.  I mean, it's not horrible, but mainly, your short-term memory is just shot. I can't remember the names of my ballet students.  I try so hard, but it's just taking longer than it would ordinarily have taken to remember.  When I show them an exercise we're going to do, I often forget it, so I have to keep a little notebook with me to glance at.  I have to write every single solitary thing I want to do on my calendar, or I'm so screwed.  I've missed two wedding receptions and a funeral because of my stupid Chemo Brain.

The nurses who work with me refer to it all the time.  I'll say, "Oh, I meant to get you this or that information, but I forgot," and they'll shrug and cheerfully say, "Chemo Brain!"

I also forget words.  Nouns, mainly.  Simple words.  Like the other night, I was FaceTiming with Ben.  BT Dubs, I'm starting to kind of hate FaceTime, because the screen shows me in up the corner, and I hate that I have to look at myself, because I look like a hard-boiled egg.  Also, for several days after chemo, my neck and face are poofy.  It's sooo butt ugly.  My eyebrows are quickly thinning. My eyelashes are also thinning rapidly.  I just look...not so great.  And I know that beauty is inside and all that crap.  I do.  And I believe it.  But I also know that if you don't feel decent on the outside, you feel a little bummed out.  Like when you see a picture of yourself, and you're like, "Wait, I look like that???"  Man, that sucks.  You think, "Well, I have a little spare tire, but I look alright!"  And then you see pictures.  And then you get depressed.  And then you ask your friend to photoshop those pictures for you.

Sorry, tangent.  So anyways, when Ben and I were FaceTiming the other night, here was our conversation:

Me:  Dude, I look so gross.  I'm so sick of looking like an egg.

Ben:  We should call you cue ball!  You just need a little black dot on your forehead.

Me:  A black dot?  What are you talking about?

Ben:  Cue balls have a black dot on them.  Like a target.

Me:  No, they don't.

Ben:  Yes, they do.

Me:  I mean, sometimes they have little blue smudges on them from the chalk you use...

Ben:  No, they're manufactured with a black dot.

Me:  I think you're thinking of the black dot on the table.

Ben:  No, I'm thinking the white cue ball.  With a black dot on it.

Me:  Dude, trust me.  My grandma and grandpa had a....a....  Um, okay, one of those tables.  That's covered in green felt.  You know, it has holes in the corners and sides?  And you use those.....sticks? You know, the long sticks that you kind of....aim at the cue ball?  And you hit the cue ball, and it hits another ball, and that ball goes into one of the holes?

Ben:  ...A pool table?

Me:  Yes!  Yes!  A pool table!  So I should know.  Cue balls don't have black dots on them.

Ben:  [Doubtful silence.  I'm sure he was thinking to himself, She does not know what she's talking about with the cue ball, since she can't even remember that a pool table is called a pool table...]

We agreed to disagree.  Which, by the way, is one of our Marriage Strengths.  We're lovers, not fighters.

Addendum:  Um, okay, so after having googled images for "cue ball," I found that we're both right. Some are plain.  Some have little red dots on them, some have little black stars on them...  So that settles that.

Oooh, oooh, two pieces of information that you may or may not care about:  

1)  I got bronchitis.  From a cold my mom had.  We were so careful, you guys.  The poor woman wore a mask for like four days.  We sanitized everything.  We stayed away from each other.  But I got it.  And it very quickly turned into bronchitis.  I felt really, really awful.  I couldn't even sit up.  It required so much energy.  I just lay around for like 5 days.  But then I went to the doctor yesterday and got the official diagnosis of bronchitis, and they gave me an antibiotic, and BOY HOWDY.  I feel like a million bucks.  I felt this when I got an antibiotic after I got thrush, way back after my first chemo.  As soon as that antibiotic did its thing, I could feel an enormous difference.  And I was so peppy and energetic!  It makes such a huge difference for those of us with low white blood cell counts.  So I feel really good today!!  So grateful for the good days.

2)  My left boob has finally "dropped."  That there is pregnancy-talk, isn't it?  If you recall, Leftie was too high and wouln't soften and drop.  It finally did.  So now my boobs are even.  Do you know how awesome it is to have two boobs that are even???  So grateful for even boobs.


Mindy H. said...

Congrats on even boobs, both you and your hubby being right at the same time, and being on the downhill side of the chemo! And as for the Chemo Brain, you have sooooo many other things on your mind, I think you are entitled to forget a few nouns. That is why we have pronouns, right? So feel free to forget as many nouns as you would like. Maybe toss in a few prepositions and adverbs as well. Save the brain space for more awesome things... like planing your done-with-chemo party.

Unknown said...

There you sit, going through your Chemo, bronchitis and feeling like you do and you cause me laugh, and smile and want to be a better person. So thank you for sharing your ups and downs and the fun but honest way you look at and live life, even when you "look like a cue ball" . I had to go look at our Pool table and check the dots! Hang in there. Prayers and blessings to you and your family. and thanks again for sharing.

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