(16-01-21) – Chemo Brain

As i sat down to type up a long overdue blog entry, i had the urge to start off by saying, “Good afternoon.  It’s been nine days since my last confession.”  I’m not even Catholic, but clearly i am feeling a little guilty for going so long without an update.  I’m struggling to multitask these days.  To be fair, this is not a new struggle.  I’ve been on ADD medication since 2008, and when i am not on it, my friends and roommates see a *distinct* difference in my ability to calmly concentrate for extended periods of time.  I stopped taking that medication on the day of my mastectomy, and it seemed pointless to resume taking it even after i recovered.  After all, what do i need to focus on?  My messy house, which i am too tired to clean?  My unemployed days, which blur together to the point where i sometimes can’t figure out  whether it’s Tuesday or Saturday?  My growing list of TV programs, which consume more hours out of the day than i would care to admit?  I figured that the medication isn’t necessary until i go back to work; plus, with all this focus on diet and nutrition, it doesn’t hurt to wean myself away from prescriptions that have their own consequences on my body.

In the past week, though, i have needed to get more tasks accomplished, and i am SERIOUSLY STRUGGLING.  The combination of Vyvanse medication abstinence and chemo-induced fatigue have been challenging enough, but now i am experiencing a third barrier: chemo brain.  I almost though this was a joke the first time i saw the term when reading “Chemotherapy and You.”  Chemo brain … is that like pregnancy brain?  These things aren’t actually real, are they?  I mean, they sound like an easy excuse for when people forget things … except it’s not an excuse at all.  My thinking and memory patterns right now are seriously clouded.  I’ve noticed it in bits and pieces, but it really became apparent on Tuesday.  I had a business appointment in Mesa, and i got lost.  No big deal … Waze took me to a residential neighborhood instead of to the strip mall that i needed to get to.  In any other circumstance, i would have just rerouted myself and arrived a few minutes late.  However, in that moment, i couldn’t figure out what to do.  I didn’t think to double check the address online or call the person i was scheduled to meet.  Instead, i made repeated U-turns for several minutes.  I got out of the car to ask someone for directions, and i forgot everything they told me by the time i got back into my car.  I got confused when the address numbers started going down, then up.  I sent two text messages that didn’t even make sense when i read them back.  I forgot that we were meeting at a Starbucks inside a Barnes & Noble, so i sat at the wrong Starbucks across the street for several minutes.  I ended up being twenty minutes late to that appointment; thank goodness that guy knew me from 10 years ago, so this wasn’t a first impression.  I was mortified.  I take pride in being on my game at all times, and i am just NOT these days.

Even though i am experiencing these moments more and more, i haven’t been very understanding in those moments.  I silently berated myself all day on Tuesday – for NOT leaving the house earlier, for NOT double checking the address online, for NOT utilizing better directional skills, for NOT remembering what people told me about how to get there.  In moments like this, I haven’t been attributing the confusion to chemo brain, mostly because i wouldn’t let myself use this rationale as a crutch.  Plus, i didn’t even take chemo brain that seriously … until this morning, when i was looking at the programs offered at the Cancer Support Community of Arizona and saw this:


Managing Treatment Side Effects

Wait – what?  Chemo brain is a real thing?  It’s actually a real side effect, serious enough to warrant workshops facilitated by specialized neurologists???

This whole time, i have been beating myself up for a side effect that is (1) out of my control and (2) potentially manageable.  It took some fishing around online before i validated my symptoms; in the meantime, though, i was being overly critical of something, when instead i should have been more open to patience, understanding, and further education.  Lesson learned.





Author: breastcancerat35

I was diagnosed with Stage 3C Invasive Breast Cancer in October/November, 2015. This blog is my way to process my experience and allow my loved ones to have ongoing updates about my journey.

One thought on “(16-01-21) – Chemo Brain”

  1. Are you going to try and go to that workshop? I think it would be beneficial. I hope you stop beating yourself up about things…your body is going through a lot and things are going to happen that you cannot control. I hope you at least balance that out by reminding yourself on a regular basis just how incredibly intelligent, brave, and quite the badass you are for handling everything the way that you are:) You are AMAZING!!


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