Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chemo Brain Revisited

I think I should revisit chemo brain here, although maybe I never visited it in the first place.

I don't know, I can't remember.

I had the strangest experience at work the other day. Apparently, our copier was out of toner. Well, not apparently, I remember that.  A teacher (they are trickling back to work) came and told me, so I went in and got the toner for him, and he put it in.

Or I did, I'm not sure anymore.  I thought it was him.

I remember getting toner all over my hands and washing it off and then going back to work.

The next day, another secretary told me the copier wasn't working.  She laughed about it.  She said it was making noises but if you pounded on it like burping a baby, or like rubbing the belly of dog (I can't remember) it would work for about 200 copies, but then start making a thumping noise again.

So, I called our copier company and requested a repair.

(They are Caltronics, by the way, I highly recommend them.)

The repairman came out within a couple of hours.

I think.

The other secretary and I went in with him,  and he said the toner had been put in wrong.  She explained that together, she and I (mostly I) had taken the other one out, and put in a new one, and it was still making this noise.

He said they'd both been put in wrong.

I looked at her, astonished, copier guy forgotten.   We had?  I don't remember putting in a second toner.  I don't remember her being in the room with me - ever.   I didn't remember that the copier had any kind of problems the day before.  In my mind, the first I heard of it was when she told me that morning and I called the company.

But, that wasn't her experience.  She said we'd both been there and talked about it and I'd gotten a 2nd bottle of toner out, and that is when I'd gotten it all over my hands.  She repeated entire conversations that we had, and things we had done in that copy room, that are not in my head. All all.  Things that never hit a brain cell.

That never happened.

Except, they did.

She has no reason to make it up, and I have every reason to be clueless.

Last time around with chemo brain, I had short-term memory loss.  By short term, I meant I forgot things for a short time.  My boss would ask me for something and I'd forget it by the time I hit my office, (about two steps away) but that was easily solved: carry a notebook and write it down immediately.  If I didn't write it down, it would eventually pop back into my head.

Now I'm missing huge chucks of time, like Tara on United States of Tara.   Permanently, it would seem.

I hope I'm not turning into Buck,  I'm pretty sure he wouldn't fix any copier.

I know that I have also written emails to people twice, thinking I only did it once.  It's a very odd feeling, not knowing what you've done from hour to hour.  It's like my brain is a turducken: a chicken brain stuffed into a duck brain stuffed into a turkey brain.

I sure hope it's chemo brain stuffed into anemia stuffed into exhaustion, because I'd hate to think this is not going away.  Peel off the anemia, and the exhaustion goes away, and then maybe I can get back to normal, forget-for-a second chemo brain and not live in this state of utter disassociation that I am currently experiencing.

I think I'll go have some ice cream.

I like ice cream, right?



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  2. Oy!! Virtual hugs to you, Ann!
    I like your theory about peeling back the anemia.. Even with chemo brain, you're still thinking! :)

  3. hahahahaha. My husband finds my lack of brain constantly amusing. I am more of a spaceshot after chemo than before. But yours sounds pretty significant. You might want to (write a note to remember to) talk to your doctor about it.

  4. I think chemo brain seems completely understandable considering all your mind and body is trying to deal with these days. Just be careful not to hurt yourself!

    And yes, you DO like ice cream!

  5. Wow - chemo brain sounds a lot like placenta brain we all seemed to have 15 years ago when we were pregnant with our kiddos. I would bet that your anemia also has something to do with it. Definitely check with your doctor if there is anything that can be prescribed to help with the anemia (B12, iron, whatever!).


  6. The anemia definitely contributes, so if you can get rid of that things should improve.

  7. Are you still with tamoxifen? Did you change to aromatase inhibitors?

  8. Ann, I don't have cancer but am being treated for an autoimmune disease called CIDP with regular IVIg treatment and a slew of drugs...and I know the feeling of "chemo brain" well. I seem to be forgetting things left and right these days and am constantly exhausted, it's so frustrating. I just try and remind myself to enjoy the good days when I have energy and enjoy the bowls of ice cream! :)

  9. I can't claim "chemo brain", but mine was due to the mastectomy...went back to work 6 weeks after surgery, and I can remember, just sitting there, trying to focus. Three months later, I found the 2nd bc, surgery again, back to work, worse! Focus was just gone. Maybe it was due to two breast cancers within six months (and I am the ONLY one in my family to be diagnosed. All I know is that it's taken me 10 years to actually come out of the 'fog'. The depression is slowly lifting (thank goodness for antidepressants), thank goodness for Amoena (breast cancer site), thank goodness my husband of 30 year left me for a woman with breasts...after he left, I've lost over 100# and have begun to embrace life again! He could not handle the 'no breasts' body I have. His loss. But back to the point, the shock of being told "you have breast cancer" does do something to our brains! I don't think of myself as a breast cancer survivor anymore, I now think of myself as a breast cancer WINNER!

  10. Anon#1: That Cure article was a good one, thanks for sharing.

    Anon#2: I'm not on tamoxifen anymore and am no longer on any hormonals.

    Anon#3: Congratulations on your turning a bad situation around!

    Last time around, chemo brain did go away. It wasn't as bad as this time around (I never even know what day it is anymore) but it gradually got better and by about a year post-chemo I felt completely normal. Of course, a few months later I had to start chemo back up again.

    I'm not sure what coping mechanism there is for forgetting your life! :)

  11. Sending prayers and well-wishes your way, Anne! I've been thinking of you. Thanks for your continued updates and humor!

  12. Five years later and I still have "the fog". Ya know I was pretty darn smart before. I am alive and kicking though.


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