I used to be smart, articulate, with an above average memory and an excellent aptitude for multi-tasking. My job requires it. The high expectation I have for myself demands it.
Which is why it is hard to admit that my brain doesn’t work like it used to.
The first indication things were awry was immediately after chemo. The challenges of those 6 months were so great that I thought for sure they would be forever burned into memory. Certainly, there are some things so awful or so heartwarming that they are truly unforgettable. But, much of the time is simply a blur, almost like it didn’t happen.
I am unable to recall details like who was there and what was said, including valuable conversations I wish to reflect on now. The emotional weight I assigned to things that happened is also missing. On the bright side, I try to view the mental void from June 2016-September 2016 as a gift, sparing me the memory of the hardest, most painful part of my life.
This far beyond active treatment, I assumed my memory issues would improve. I could tell this was not happening but only began to worry when my boyfriend mentioned he thought I was senile. I’m wondering myself.
I wrongly assume a person had a conversation with me and then feel confused when they gently remind me that “must have been someone else.” I have forgotten whole discussions where important decisions have been made. I can sense the frustration for others when I have to be given a recap. I misalign the who with the what and where.
I’m gaining an understanding of what a person with dementia must feel. The subtle nature of memory loss is, perhaps fortunately, lost on the person who doesn’t remember. Because memories construct our reality, if the memory isn’t there, the reality, for me at least, is that it didn’t happen. However, being the only one who doesn’t retain the memory is frustratingly embarrassing. It’s hard not to be able to trust my body or, apparently, even my mind anymore.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot known about chemo-induced or cancer-induced mental fog aside from that it exists. I’ll continue to exercise, read, eat well, and sleep, the recommended treatment for memory loss, regardless of its origin. I may also need a hammock and some palm trees. Or maybe a nice snowy mountain with a hot tub at the end. Hopefully all I need is a little more time.
Some excellent articles about chemo brain, if you’re interested:
And, because chemo brain (and this whole unfair, shitty, no good disease) pisses me off to no end…