Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The chemo brain affect

Ok so chemo brain is a real thing. Do we overuse it? Sure, I can't spell normally, but now I can blame the chemo. It's like preggo brain, but worse. Now it's probably not fair to blame only the chemo, I am also on a steroid to keep my brain swelling down. So there are other meds and factors at play. Though I don't think the brain mets are to blame, I've had them a while and I slept before the diagnosis. Though knowledge of the brain mets, might play a part. But for the most part, the most of the brain weirdness coincided with the first week of chemotherapy.

I always knew it would happen, I just didn't realize how instantly I would feel it. The first thing I felt was this tingling at the top of my scalp. It actually felt like radio interference, like there was an electromagnetic cloud above my head. I still feel it a little bit, but not like those first 5 days following my initial chemo treatment. The only thing that relieved the sensation was a shower. Something about the water hitting my head, it's a nice feeling. But since my pass out episode, my mother closely monitors the length of my showers. She says I take too long. I have a lot of flesh to wash, I'm not doing karaoke. It's driving me nuts.

The other sensation, the one I still have is the sense of ADD. I feel like I have 10 cable channels going on in my head at once. It's made me rather rude I must say. I can't focus on conversations, tv shows, books and I constantly feel like I want to bolt. I can't sit still in a car, I am so restless. I spend a big portion of my day in front of my laptop. The internet helps me with the ADD feeling. I can obsessively flip back and forth between Facebook, MSN, Slate, the blog. And I'll do this minute to minute too.

I can however, blog, watch Oprah and hold a conversation at the same time now though. It seems to be my preferred method of communication aside from e-mail. Carrying on a conversation with someone while not ever looking in that person's direction. It's strange.

The first time I went to the Mall after chemo, I went with my parents and we were in JCPenney. I decided I would walk ahead to Macy's. Now that requires walking straight to the center of the mall and turning right and walking straight to Macy's. If you know you me, you know what a large portion of my life has been spent in the Staten Island Mall. Plus I worked there for a couple of years, I know where the Mall's trash goes, I've done inventory til the middle of the night, I know how to get into the Mall when it isn't open. So this should be a piece of cake.

However chemo brain has complicated this process, I basically said "ok walk straight, turn right, walk straight." Over and over. Careful not to walk into anyone along the way. My parents quickly thought the better of this and mom sent dad soon after me. By the time he caught up to me, I was saying "left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot". When I was looking at shoes, the woman in front of me changed direction. I must have given the poor woman the dirtiest look. It's not that I was upset that she changed her direction, it was the conversation I had to have with my feet in order to negotiate what she did. "Look guys, she wants to look at boots, you can't blame her. Can you just not move for a sec, she would really like to get by." Cause otherwise I would have been on top of her. She was thin, it would not have been pleasant for her.

On the Saturday after my first treatment, our friends came to visit me. At one point I said to myself, "listening to the words that Jessica is saying will help me understand the idea that she is trying to convey".

It's much better now, but that first week was something. It really is a strange feeling to have this restlessness. I know I must come off so awful to my parents and my in-laws. I've sorta blended into the background of my home. I've become very quiet, which I think my former co-workers will find the most amusing. I'm never quiet, I always have something to say (not that it's worth a damn). Now I don't cause I'm pretty sure it won't make sense to whoever is listening.

I can do it with John, he is great at just listening to whatever pops out of my head. He is great at following my bat-shit lunacy. We've been together more than half of lives, the man gets me. Then there's that whole love of my life thing.

But I did try it with my mom. I don't think she was that amused at my lament that pagans can't seem to come to a consensus on color correspondence regarding healing and healing cancer specifically. (Really, is it blue, orange or green. Come on people!) She was like, oh that's... interesting.

So I try to keep my filter in check before I start talking to her about the importance of the moon being in Virgo this weekend. Or my desire to build a new dream catcher, cause I think my old one has stopped working.

I just wish I slept better. I've lost the sensation of sleep. I can't tell if I've slept or not. I have to actually think about it. "Well Uncle Louie and I were talking to that penguin so yeah, I guess I was sleeping." I love sleep, it's one of my favorite things. But the sensation escapes me. It's not that I don't feel rested, I do. But you know when you wake up and it's 2 am and you say, "oh good I have 4 more hours before I have to be awake!" I no longer have that sensation. For one it hasn't felt like I've slept and two I'm not getting back to sleep any time soon. I'll be up for at least 3 hours. Not stressing, not dwelling. It's the ADD. I'll think about breakfast, Harry Potter, blog ideas... Doesn't matter, my brain just won't shut off until it exhausts itself.

The worst part is it's made me a crap mom. Not that I was great before, but I really suck now. If it were just me and her, she'd have to make her own meals. Remembering to do things like feed her is so not in this head right now. I've been watching our mothers meticulously potty train Sophia and I'm thinking damn that's hard work. Not that I am completely disconnected from her, we get snuggle time every morning. I catch her doing things she shouldn't be doing and know enough to stop her. But my job of being a stay at home mom is on hiatus.

It's strange I now have permission to just be alone. I can escape for a nap or to read a book. This is the stuff mom dreams are made of. It feels so weird. To just be within myself, it's nice because I'm in such an odd place mentally. But it feels wrong.

But chemo brain man. This shit is real. Trust me.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you see this. I have been blogging since July and your blog was the first one I read. When I saw NO posts for many months, I was concerned. I am a breast cancer "survivor" and I am a patient at Sloan Kettering. Your words resonate with me. All of them. I just wanted to wish you well and let you know I am reading. I have to keep a blogroll on my own blog page which is now an epic mess but it's the only way I remember to read about the people whose lives have become part of mine. Stay well and keep writing. I care.