Friday, September 2, 2011

Chemo Brain

Last weekend was hard and I wrote about it but this week has been challenging in a different way.    Chemo brain is a very real side effect of chemotherapy and it has chosen me as its latest victim. Basically it is a temporary mental cloudiness that causes forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, multi-tasking, etc.  I have done some stupid things in life and had plenty of forgetful moments, but now I am taking things to new heights ;).  There are times – usually the first 5-6 days after a treatment when I feel like I can’t even think.  It has been very hard to feel like I am incapable of doing simple things and sometimes I feel like I am going crazy - at least temporarily :).  My head hurts and I just don't feel like myself.  But I guess that's what happens when you put poison in your body?   
Luckily I have a mother who is very patient with me - she was helping me with my laundry this week and asked if some shirts went in the dryer . . . I just stared at them - as if the question was too difficult to answer.  Yes, I have shed a few tears at the frustration of not being able to process information and the feelings I have of being overwhelmed by life right now.  Monday and Tuesday I felt so unable to do basic things that I cleared my schedule and decided that on Wednesday I would only do 3 things: get up, work from home for a few hours, and go to my acupuncture appointment.  I was grateful that by the end of the day I was feeling a lot better.
So while I have hit some true bumps in the road, I have learned yet again that there are always  brighter days ahead.  The beginning of the week I felt completely hopeless and frustrated but today I feel optimistic and much more capable of facing the challenges.  I am once again grateful for so many of you who are helping me through this and are patient with my roller coaster of emotions.

I know that there are many reading this who are struggling with various challenges and have people they know who are going through great trials.  Here is some unsolicited advice from my own experience: if you who are watching someone you love go through something hard - just love them and make sure they know it's ok to be frustrated and upset sometimes. They need to feel validated and loved before the can move past the negative.  Help them by loving them and not trying to force the positive too much if they're not ready for it yet.  It’s not an easy role you play but your love and support mean more than what they have the capacity to verbalize.  I hope and pray they will move through the grief cycle quickly – it’s no fun to stay there but I know that pain is all part of the plan for us to evolve into who we capable of becoming.  On that note, I’ll share a well- known verse:
Pain stayed so long
I said to him today,
"I will not have you with me anymore
And paused there startled at the look he wore.
"I who have been your friend,"
he said to me, "I who have been your teacher
--all that you know of understanding love,
of sympathy and patience,
I have taught you.
Shall I go?"
He spoke the truth,
this strange unwelcome guest;
I watched him leave and knew that he was wise.
He left a heart grown tender in my breast.
He left a far, clear vision in my eyes.
I dried my tears, and lifted up a song
Even for one who'd tortured me so long.

-Author Unknown


  1. I'm sorry Amy:-(. What great insight as usual. Come and play with us this weekend and we'll help you forget you have temporary chemo brain :-)

  2. Hey sweet pea - does your phone have chemo brain too? I called you yesterday and it would ring intermittently and make wierd noises. And your voicemail never kicked in.

    Anyway, sorry to hear of the emotional roller you've been on. I hope this weekend is better AND that the next rounds of chemo are nice to u.

    Love ya!

  3. Oh Amy! I totally relate to your feeling of "mental cloudiness that causes forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, multi-tasking, etc." That's E.X.A.C.T.L.Y how I feel some days (most days until recently). I guess it's just that any brain trauma has a similar effect (poison - you or injury - me). I also relate to the feeling of frustration and of somehow being shafted.

  4. I love you Amy - You are doing great!

    I walked a mile with Pleasure; She chatted all the way;
    But left me none the wiser For all she had to say.
    I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne’er a word said she;
    But, oh! The things I learned from her, When sorrow walked with me.
    -Robert Browning Hamilton