Inside a Brain Addled by Chemo

Do you know what frustrates me as much as almost anything? Having an idea and losing it before I can make it happen.

Does that happen to you? I guess I experienced it to a point even before chemotherapy blessed me with chemobrain, but oh man!! It is terrible now.

Frustrations of chemo brain

I will be cooking and I will think, “Oh, I need to remember that we’re nearly out of seasoned salt.” But, if I don’t write it down that very instant, I won’t remember. Now, I might remember that there is something I had planned to write on my grocery list, but no amount of mentally stepping back through my activities brings the memory of what back.

And, here’s another frustration. Words. Oh my gosh. I once had a large vocabulary, I was an excellent speller, and my grammar was very good. Now, words leave me all of the time. I have to define what I am trying to say during a conversation. “You know, that big piece of furniture where you sit to watch TV…” Oh yeah, a chair! Duh.

Tackling my memory gaps

Thank goodness for Google. So frequently I will be writing along and I will use a word that I am no longer sure of its meaning. I’ll have to go look. Sometimes, the meaning is definitely not what I thought it was and it makes no sense in my sentence. Other times, I know there is just the right word to complete the sentence, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it Sometimes, Google can help me out, especially if I can think of a synonym or something.

I wrote about catching a wisp of something. I knew that wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t for the life of myself remember what word I really wanted. It finally occurred to me about a week later. I didn’t catch a “wisp,” I caught a “whiff” of the scent.

And grammar. Oh man. I once intuitively knew the rules. No longer.

I’ve actually taken some online grammar courses within the last six or eight months. I had plenty of aha moments, but unfortunately, chemobrain also means that I don’t retain knowledge for very long. So, often those aha moments fly right out nearly as quickly as they appeared.

When names slips my mind

Have you had this happen? I have a good friend that I see several times a month. I like her a lot. One day, her name left my brain. I could tell you where she lives, what we had for dinner when we ate at her house, her husband’s name, what kind of dogs she has, what she does for a living, but not her name. I wracked my brain. For hours. And her name was just not there. I finally resorted to going through my phone’s contact list to see if that would jog my memory. 

I feel horrible when I forget someone’s name, especially when it is someone whose name I definitely should know. One day, I  passed a friend in the hallway and said, with great confidence and no forethought, “Hi Greg!” 

He looked at me quizzically, but said, “Hi.” A few minutes later I remembered that his name is Scott, not Greg. I was so embarrassed. I apologized. Thankfully, he’s a great sport. He just started calling me “Mabel.” 

Thankful for my supportive friends

I recently spent a fun-filled day with a friend from Florida. The little tearoom where we ate lunch had all kinds of pretty scarves and keepsakes that we admired while waiting on our table.

She left before the rest of us to go pay for her lunch. When she returned, she gifted me with a lovely scarf. She said, “I know how bad your memory is now. I want you to have this so you will have something tangible with which to remember our day.”

It brought tears to my eyes because she did it. But, more than that, she understands and tried to find a way to help me. I forget a lot, but I’ll never forget that.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The LungCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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