Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chemo Brain Strikes!

At some point during chemo, you get forgetful. This is commonly known as "Chemo Brain." New imaging studies show this isn't just imagination - parts of the brain responsible for memory and concentration seem to show shrinkage, although nobody is sure why.

Being an ADD sort, my joke was always that nobody would ever know when I got Alzheimer's disease. As an aside - and asides are one of those things we ADD people do best - my all-time pet peeve is people who say "Old-timer's" for Alzheimer's. (Or All-timers, which makes even less sense.) Why? Do you really not know the proper word? Now you do, so cut it out.

Anyway, now my joke has changed to, "Nobody will know when I get chemo brain."

I'm one of those annoying people who loses her keys the instant she gets inside the house. And yes, I've been known to call my husband at work saying, "Honey, have you seen my keys?" I can't ever find the shoes I want to wear. I can find the one that is under the chaise, but where is its mate? It's a mystery that won't be solved until spring cleaning. Naturally, I can't remember where I've parked the car. I could go on, but I'm sure you know somebody like me and they probably drive you crazy.

Over the years, I've learned some coping mechanisms: I now have an alarmfor my keys. I push a button and my keys beep and there they are, under the couch or behind the coffeepot or wherever I dropped them when I walked in the house. My shoes are a slight problem as you can't alarm them (and be stylish), so I have a hundred pairs to choose from. If I can't find the ones I want, I have another somewhere that will work. Problem solved. Parking is trickier - but knowing I have a finding-disability, I pay extremely close attention to where I park, especially in strange places. I take a picture of the row number with my cell, I count steps to the curb, I look for a landmark, I mentally turn around and walk back to the car so I know what it looks like from the other end. It is a deliberate plan, and I have to make it each time. (I learned this after losing my car in a college campus parking lot on a blustery, rainy day and not being able to find it for three hours and finally, soaking wet and in despair, having to call my heroic husband to leave work to drive me through all the lots to get it.)

In places I regularly frequent, I don't pay such close attention. At my regular grocery store, I've learned to park in one of two rows. I go up one section and if I don't find a space, I go down the second row to find a space. Those are the only rows I'll park in, and that way, I am not looking through the entire parking lot when I'm done. In ten years, I've never forgotten which row I was in: A or B.

Until yesterday.

I had my herceptin infusion and blood check at 11:00. I was headachy, and my white counts are very low. The nurse told me to stay home and avoid people as I am very vulnerable to illness, and to not eat fresh fruits or vegetables as they could make me sick.

Of course, as soon as the nurse told me to stay home I remembered errands I had to run. (I highly recommend you never tell me not to do something, because that will almost guarantee that I'll do it.)

The last errand was to the grocery store, but I promise, I was a good girl. I had some alcohol wipes and wiped the cart before I touched it and kept some alcohol sanitizer in my pocket that I used liberally. If I heard somebody coughing or sneezing I'd change aisles to avoid them.

Now that I've had surgery, I can have the bag boys take my groceries to the car without feeling guilty, and when I wear my scarf as I was yesterday - everybody knows why I need help. Yay for an excuse to be lazy! I chatted with the nice young man as I confidently walked to my car, when suddenly I realized I had no idea where it was.

It has to be this aisle, right?

I stopped dead in my tracks and looked - I didn't see the car anywhere. Well, it could be only one of two aisles, so I told the boy that I thought we were in the wrong aisle. He was very kind, saying, "No problem, I like a good walk."

We walked half way down aisle number 2 - still no car! In desperation, I told this teenager, "Uh oh, chemo brain! I have no idea where my car is. It's a white SUV and in one of these two aisles, do you see it?" I got lucky. This kid had an aunt with breast cancer and completely understood chemo brain. He led me straight to my car.

In the first aisle. Right where I'd stopped and said it wasn't in that aisle.

So, what is my point? Oh yeah, Happy New Year! I hope your 2010 is full of health, happiness, acceptance, and peace.

I almost forgot.

Darn chemo brain.



  1. Hey, at least you didn't get into the wrong car and wonder why your key wouldn't fit! I've done that. And I totally agree: ADD and chemo-brain are a powerful and dangerous combination. I have forgotten more than most people will ever learn. But not where to find your funny blog!

    Happy New Year!

  2. I once put the phone in the refrigerator LOL (just a few weeks ago), and I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a room with a purpose that escaped my mind the second I arrived and then did it over and over again within the same hour - something like 10 times before I finally gave up and took a nap. Chemo brain is for real and annoying as heck. ;(

  3. I can not begin to tell you how thrilled I am to have found your blog. I went to the beginning and have spent my new year (January 2011) reading to this point. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2010, and have to start chemo soon. Your blogs have helped me so much.


Thank you for commenting. If the post is over 14 days old, the comment will be moderated and will approved later. This is a spam prevention technique - but I love to hear from you!