GE DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not sure who I feel more sorry for, myself for the lack of brain waves that connect these days, or the person who runs into me somewhere or other and says, “HI!”, only to be met with silence, a goofy smile and a blank stare, because my head is saying, “Clearly you have me confused with someone you know”, even as I try to work it out.

Very rarely do I play along these days, pretending I know who they are, because my brain just cannot process fast enough that I know them.  Seriously they must have me confused…..nope, they know who I am. It becomes evident when either they call me by my name or they tell me their name and the bells and whistles go off in my head, yelling, “CRAP, CRAP, CRAP, you’ve done it again, you BIG Stupid dummy!”

 You may not believe me, but unfortunately this is a side effect of my cancer treatments nine years ago. Yes NINE years ago.

There’s a lot of things I can’t remember. Short term memory has been a haze. I can have a ½ hour conversation with someone and 10 minutes later try to tell someone else about that conversation and not be able to remember the details. Heck sometimes I can’t even remember what the person I was talking to was wearing.  I can’t remember on Thursday what school I was at on Tuesday for a Cross Country meet, to watch my son run. I can come into work on Monday and have someone say, what did you do this weekend and I can’t remember having a Friday at all. It can at times be very frustrating, but most days I can cope, because I have something to blame for it. The days I have trouble coping are the days people trying to be helpful try to tell me, it’s my age and they can’t remember why they walked into a room, or they can’t remember where they put their car keys. From their point of view it may seem like the same thing, but it’s not, and it doesn’t make me feel any better.

These days I try a little harder to write stuff down, while I’m thinking of it, an idea, or something I need to look up, even if I’m going to look it up in the next 3 seconds, because one slight distraction in that 3 seconds and I will forget. 

I try to write every day stuff down in a journal. I may never go back to look at it, but it helps to know it’s there if I need it, Most nights however, I even forget to do that and go to work on Monday morning realizing I forgot to write down what I did that weekend. When I am asked once again how my weekend was, I respond, “It was good, yeah, it was good.” I know it had to be good, because I am living most of my life in the moment. I just can’t remember the moment.

A General Explanation of Chemo Brain from the American Cancer Society’s webpage:

For years cancer survivors have worried about, joked about, and been frustrated by the mental cloudiness they sometimes notice before, during, and after cancer treatment. Even though its exact cause isn’t always known, this mental fog is commonly called chemo brain.

Doctors have known for years that radiation treatment to the brain can cause thinking and memory problems. (My radiation treatments were close enough to my brain; I do believe it zapped the memory matter, so double trouble radiation AND Chemo, just great.) Recently, they have found that chemo is linked to some of the same kinds of problems.

Research shows that some cancer drugs can cause certain kinds of changes in the brain. But it also shows that chemo and radiation aren’t the only things that can cause thinking and memory problems in people with cancer.

Though the brain usually recovers over time, the sometimes vague yet distressing mental changes cancer patients notice are real, not imagined. They might last a short time, or they might go on for years. (There it is, YEARS).

So if you happen upon me someday while out and about and you are somewhere out of the normal place I would remember you, and maybe I haven’t seen you for a few months please don’t walk away without talking to me for fear you’ll embarrass me. I’ll get over the embarrassment, but I won’t get over missing an opportunity to catch up once I know who you are. Simply say, HI, it’s me, and clearly and slowly state your name, and tell me, “No clearly I do not have you confused.”

I’m not whining, this is my life and the stuff I do remember…..well it’s fabulous to be alive to do it. It was fun while I was enjoying it, even if it ends up in the haze of my brain waves. Smile, life is good, I don’t feel sorry for me.

And my sincere apologies to Deb today, for being the recipient of my blank stare and goofy smile.


About jlturtlerunner

12 plus Years Surviving Stage IV Oral Cancer. I have become a "Turtle" runner since that diagnosis, as a way of saying, "Take That Sucker!" After 12 years of being a Turtle Runner, I'm adding a new title, Turtle Rucker!

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