Chemo-brain is REAL, y’all!

I worked through my first chemo in 2007-2008. As an executive administrative assistant for 2 VPs at the company, I learned to write things down so I wouldn’t forget. My desk and computer had sticky notes everywhere. Thankfully I’d been working there since 2000, so some of the routines I had already established were patterned and I could follow them along. I do remember one day, going into my senior VPs office (who HATED to be asked questions by the way) with a notebook. He looked at me and I said, “I know you don’t like questions. I also know I already asked you the question that I’m about to ask you. I also know you already answered it and I wrote it down. But then I lost where I wrote it down.” Long pause….. then he said, “I can’t even get mad at you for that!” and started laughing.

So yeah, a funny story about a subject matter that isn’t funny at all. Now, with an additional 4 years of chemo treatments in my body, I struggle with finding words. One day I couldn’t remember the word “hammer”… so I describe it – that thing you pound things with… um, you cuss when you hit your thumb… it’s got a wooden handle and a hook thing on one end opposite from the pounding side. Not a screwdriver. Sometimes it cracks my husband up because I can run all around the stupid word but not come up with the actual word itself. Meanwhile, I’m so damn ANGRY! And upset. And frustrated. It’s all I can do not to cry sometimes. I used to do the NY Times crossword puzzles, and now I can’t remember “hammer”. I’m working on laughing at myself, and accepting that this IS my new normal. It’s a process though!

I’m struggling even more to connect names to faces. I can remember a name, or remember a face, but not both at the same time. It’s horrible when I go to introduce people and my mind just shuts down. Blank. Vapor has more substance than my brain at that time. I’m sure sometimes people think I’m some kind of idiot, especially when I’ve just said their name while talking to them.

Short term memory (affected since 2007), is horrible. I have been know to tell my husband the same things over and over in the span of a day. However, I can remember my high school Spanish, along with algebra, geometry and trig. My phone is now my “sticky note”. When I tell people about my upcoming travel and they give me “must-do”s, I have to say, “Hold on!”, I open my phone and start adding a note. If I ever lose my phone, I’m sooooo screwed! My calendar is there, so I know where I’m supposed to be going on any given day.

How are you coping with the long-term side effects of chemo to kill the cancer?


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