I was about to celebrate my 48th birthday when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was already noticing a decline in memory and cognitive function among other weirdness that comes with age, and the stress of thinking you may be getting Alzheimer’s. My maternal grandmother, Gommie, had Alzheimer’s so I worry about it sometimes. OK, I worry about it a lot.
After I was told that I would need chemo, I started reading. I read about this thing called Chemo-brain. Great. Just what I needed, I thought, a fast track on the Alzheimer train. Hey! Mr. Engineer! Can you slow this thing down, please? It turns out that it’s pretty accurate, this Chemo-brain. I thought in the beginning, Oh! I’ll have time to read and maybe make some art or crafty things that were on my list, but no, I found out pretty quickly that I couldn’t focus enough to do those kind of things. I mean, it would take me as long to read a magazine article as it took Steve to read James Joyce’s Ulysses! I found that my dexterity was off as well. It took me weeks to make a couple of baby blankets that normally would’ve only taken a few days each. Did I mention this involved counting stitches? 1, 2, 3, uhm, 3… I would drop things too, a lot. My camera, thankfully, is built like a tank, unfortunately my wide angle lens and one of my flashes weren’t. I felt fuzzy and off balance most of the time. I would have to wear the very unfashionable “Fall Risk” wrist band sometimes after answering yes to the “Have you been dizzy or lightheaded in the last 24 hours” question before each and every chemo session.
The worst thing I read about the dastardly Chemo-brain was that it could last as long as two years. Yes. Two. Years. And though it’s gotten progressively better after 17 months, I still have my moments, like yesterday, when after my computer battery died, because my power cord died, I picked up my iPod and realized I could actually plug my headphones into it like it was the first time this had ever occurred to me. I was genuinely worried about how I was going to listen to my music! And today, when I realized I could simply plug Steve’s Apple power cord into my Mac to charge my battery. Chemo-brain? Old age? Beginning stages of Alzheimer’s? Who knows. It’s OK though. I’m still here. I may forget or question if I’m still here every now and then, but I’ve got people to remind me, and hopefully an awesome person or two who will just take me out when reminding just doesn’t cut it anymore. Please, and thank you in advance.