Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chemo Brain...Uncovered

Hello again world,

Here we are nearly two weeks away from Christmas and almost 3 months since I finished treatment. Both have creeped up on me unsuspectingly and it feels like time is truly flying by. I am still working and it is good but also very challenging. I am discovering that - thank god I still have a brain that has good ideas and can perform but I am also seeing that my newly established limitations are frustrating. I know I am not the same girl I was in my 20s who loved working long hours and getting to the office first despite having been out partying til 4am on a Tuesday night! But before this latest round, I had more endurance and could just do more. Of course my priorities changed after having my monkey but I remained driven and motivated. However last week, I worked two days in a row and was so tired in the evening that my husband found me sitting upright in bed with my face firmly planted in my Ipad. I never pass out ever when I go to bed so it was a sign that the ol´body was dealing with a new set of challenges and it was struggling. I am also noticing some symptoms that can be classified as "chemo brain" - a condition that has been debated alot in the cancer world. Some people (doctors included) don´t agree that it actually exists and that it is more psychosomatic then actually a physical condition caused by the chemicals. You know us cancer peeps - anything to milk the sympathy card longer! (just kidding). But in all seriousness - I am feeling more and more of these so-called afflictions.

The Mayo Clinic defines chemo brain as:
Chemo brain is a common term used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur after cancer treatment. Chemo brain can also be called chemo fog, chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment or cognitive dysfunction.

Let´s see...

I used to be a supernova in the morning who loved to get up early to ensure I had time for sun salutations, my multistep hair straightening process and getting my child looking "picture perfect." However these days, I am struggling with the daily grind and heavily depend on Disney Junior to buy myself enough time to cram everything in and I take more then double the time to do even less then I did previously. And the stress and frenzied nature which I do everything does nothing for my irregular heart beats! Like a chicken with its head cut off people. - I have prided myself on my consistent mood and high level of patience pretty much my whole life. That is what works with my husband and I - we balance each other in terms of our moods. I rarely have changes in how I act, feel and react. I am not an emotional desert but I dont get as emotional and irritated and it definitely comes in handy when dealing with a toddler. However these days I feel myself wanting to scream over the little things and get angry when I fubble with something or can´t get the frickin´carseat sorted. It is a new feeling for me and I don´t like one bit.

Brain freeze: We all have moments when we forget things - it happens to everyone. Unfortunately my frequency of forgetfulness has increased dramatically as of late. If I had a kronor for every time I said "hang on a minute, I can´t remember that name, thing, place....but it will come back to me in the next 30-45seconds" - I would be sorta rich in a coin kind of way.  Sometimes I find those missing words but other times they seem to be on their way to neverland and never come back. It makes me anxious as I don´t know if my mental sharpness and quick witted nature will ever be the same or will I forecer coast along on slow mo?

Let´s talk about Focus: Okay I have never been someone who accelerated at math or complex problem solving nor do I like to do things I find boring. Who does really? But these days my avoidance of doing difficult things that are unpleasant is even worse. I delay everything because it is just so bloody hard. And I even delay things I want to do like sending an email. returning a phone call or finishing a project. The intent is there and I feel so much guilt over not doing it but I still don´t do it.  I only have the capacity to do one thing a day really and sometimes I don´t even get through that. So no - it is not personal. :)

Fatigue:  I am not sure this actually technically fits into the "chemo brain" box as it it more of a physical affliction but I feel that my fatigue contributes greatly to the things I listed above so definitely worth a mention. Fatigue makes all of these so much worse. And boy am I dealing with fatigue levels that I have never ever known (and I was a swimmer for years who woke up at 4:45am so I know tired). I wake up exhausted and sore no matter how early I went to bed. I need to lie down and rest every afternoon or else I fall apart mid evening to the point of collapsing. Seriously - forget Sunday mass, naps have become a devout practice that cannot be missed. And when I get tired things hurt...alot. A few weeks ago, I attended my work Christmas conference and party and suffered from debilating chest pains for the next week just from a lack of sleep. Honestly where did the jagerbomb girl go that we all know and loved? Oh yes that is right - she got cancer! And by the time I have done everything i need to do in the evening, I hobble around like an old woman with aching joints from the temporary arthritis chemo gave me. It is hard not to get pissed off about it all and tell the silver lining to fuck off! I want my old self back stat Roger!

So following the latest round in the ring with the C- monster,  I am now a firm believer in the existence of "chemo brain" and all the associated issues that come with it. I feel for all of those who have experienced it and for those who are still wading the deep waters of it. Doctors still don´t know very much about it and research has only just dipped its toes in the water regarding it. I hope we find out more and discover new ways to treat it and more importantly properly recognise it. For those of who have been through it, what are your experiences?

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. Someone please have an eggnog for me!

OBB xxx