06 April 2009

Chemo Brain in Full Effect: The Chemosabes' Daily Fight Againt Idiot Slippage

"Chemobrain," an affliction that turns otherwise coherent individuals into full-on space shots and glassy-eyed fools during and after chemotherapy, is no longer considered a myth thanks to people like Ellen Clegg, an editor at the Globe, who wrote THE book on it this year, "Chemobrain: How Cancer Therapies Can Affect your Mind." Ellen also had a fantastic piece in the Globe Magazine yesterday entitled "The Cloud over Chemotherapy" that I'm re-reading here today at DF on the TH drip (where I just overheard the nurses saying they've already canceled Opening Day because of the MF rain. Boo.)

The book, which I read cover-to-cover the day it arrived in the mail, talks about what happens after your hair and energy return. About how that spaced out feeling often lingers, leading to impaired memory and an inability to concentrate or multitask. Many doctors, including many here at DF, are starting to take these mental curve balls seriously, offering ways to combat one's slippage into slack-jawed idiocy. (And we idiots appreciate it).

Ellen blogs about the topic daily on her blog Chemo Brain Boston and offers great advice to those on or off the toxic stew. She also gave the PU a much- appreciated shout out here.

All of the information is fantastic not only for us Chemosabes, but also for anyone forgetful or spacey by nature. You can learn how to open up those neural pathways by exercising your body and brain, clearing your mind of distractions, and controlling your environment to your benefit.

I am a self-anointed guinea pig in this area and have hereby offered my Chemobrain stories to Ellen Clegg for any second editions.

Here are some of my symptoms below (some of which could also indicate an onset of Tourettes Sydrome)

"I've never been too good with names, but I remember faces." Not anymore. Now I'm horrible with both. I completely blanked on the name of our mailman of almost four years -- Stu. How do forget a name like Stu? It's the all-time best mailman name that ever existed. (Caroline and Paul reminded me as they bumrushed the mailbox upon his arrival. "STU!!!!!! MAIL!!!!") In the past two weeks alone, I've called my neighbor Alan, "Earl" and another neighbor Rich, "Ken." I completely forgot the names and faces of some parents with whom I've had full conversations at Paulie's school. This weekend, I did the same at Caroline's soccer game, but I think I was just preoccupied. There were some very high winds blowing and I was mentally preparing myself in case my wig flew off and rolled down the field like a renegade tumbleweed.

Typist Idiotus: At one time, I could type a ridiculous amount of error-free words per minute. I was a typing savant; my skills were sought after by many a temp agency in the early 1990s and garnered me several "Temp of the Month accolades" that involved my Polaroid hanging by the elevator banks and a couple of $25 gift certificates to Souper Salad. Now, everything I write is littered with typos and grammatical errors (the sneaky kinds that elude spell check) And whenever I type the word "this," it comes out as "shit." My unconscious mind must have a sense of humor.

Driving with Geggy Tah: I've always been a terrible driver but now I've become a scary one. Recently, I was meeting a friend in Braintree for lunch and forget which Exit I was supposed to get off of. "Get a grip, Kathy!" When I tried to bring up the address on my phone, I started lane swerving like a daytime DUI. Luckily, the moment passed and I was able to recall the exit number, but not before becoming a justifiable target of Route 3 road ragers. Thankfully, some motorists (I love the word "motorist.") were more patient with me and let me switch lanes at the last second so I didn't miss my Exit or sideswipe the guardrail. To these patient drivers, I mentally dedicated the impossibly addictive tune "Whoever You Are" by Geggy Tah: "All I want to do is to thank you, even though I don't know who you are. You let me change lanes, when I was driving in my car." It's still stuck in my XS head, however.

Aside: Looking back, it was not so much my memory coming back at it was Gail Sheena's voice entering my head. She was always the reassuring voice of reason from my backseat: "Um, I think you're OVERSHOOTING it a little," as she used to say -- quite calmly -- just before I blew past the parking lot at whatever bar or restaurant we were trying to find.

Things accidentally put in the fridge: Vito's leash, an Anthropologie catalogue, Caroline's detangling spray.

MF Dishwasher: I've emptied more than three dishwashers full of dirty dishes. James usually walks into the kitchen just as I've placed the final coffee mug onto its shelf. "I think those were dirty." *Stream of kitchen profanity* "Mom, please stop staying naughty bathroom words. I'll call the Easter Bunny" - Caroline

Cafe Rodgriguez, Anyone?: I've long chided poor James for his mispronouncements of restaurants, i.e., "Cafe Rodriguez" for Casa Romero, "The Groratoria" for Circes Grotto, or "Astros" for "Cosmos." This weekend, I doggedly insisted that the name of the tapas place we wanted to try in Marshfield was "Ole." Then why couldn't any of us find it on Google or 411? Because I insisted it was "Ole, in Liberty Plaza RIGHT ON 139." In reality it was "Hola, in Library Plaza in RIGHT OFF 139." Hello? We finally found it after driving up and down Ocean Avenue with a GPS that led us to a nice cul-de-sac off Liberty Street before locating the restaurant in a strip mall next to Kokopelli's tanning salon.

Misplaced: Every day, my shoes. But I think this is less Chemobrain than it is James' gaslighting me. Sure he grumbles about "land mines" and how I'm trying to kill him by leaving my shoes strewn in his path, but we all know he's facilitating my devolution into dementia at age 39.

Sidenote to Ellen: I'm sure you already do, but please ignore the crazy ass troglodytes who post on the Globe's message boards. (any message boards, actually) At least 85 percent of them are angry old coots, spewing crumbs on their keyboards as they type (with plenty of spelling errors) their bitter tirades. They are camels, one and all.

Seven Songs of the Day 4/6/2009

Today's Seven Songs come courtesy of Tom Haley, complete with explanation. Thanks T-Bag!

1. April Skies – Jesus & Mary Chain (I figured, Fuck March)
2. Story Of My Life – Social Distortion
3. Dog Gone – Frank Black
4. Nevertheless – Brian Jonestown Massacre
5. Elvis Presley & America – U2 (I had to put down at least one U2 song, and there aren’t many underplayed ones left)
6. On The Road To Find Out – Cat Stevens
7. Good Feeling – Violent Femmes (la laa, la laa la-la-la-laa…)


bg said...

I'm sort of glad to hear that you type "shit" when typing "this". I do it all the time, and in a weird way feel guilty about doing it.

KT said...

Ok, so if this behavior is the result of the toxic stew, what excuse do the rest of us have?? I blame waaayyy to many fun nights on Landsdowne and seedy bars in Cambridge in our 20s. Totally worth it.

Dawn F said...

This sounds like baby brain to me too. I am not the person I once was. and on the message baord topic, I think the viewer comments on Boston.com are much more vicious lately than they used to be - I was just telling Tom the other day after reading comments on a few articles, that I thought people must be getting meaner because of the economy

jal said...

I'm with KT on this one.

Roving Lemon said...

Love Caroline's language policing! I'm with the bar overload & baby brain proponents--how about leaving stuff in the dishwasher for three days? How about forgetting why you were going into the kitchen by the time you've arrived? How about making lists so you don't forget things, and then forgetting where you put the list? In which case the good news is that you're not alone. The bad news is that you can't remember who to commiserate with.

Ellenc said...

Thanks for the shout-out. Chemobrain aside, your sense of humor remains intact!
Ellen Clegg

Bean Down Under said...

Wow! Chemo does that to you? Two back to back nights of too many Hornitos margarita's does the same thing! (I was able to use every variation of to, too, and two in one sentence!)

btw... ran into Carter in the Southie parade running around in a Chinese costume as part of the dragon crew... LOL!

Heather said...

How about brushing your teeth 10 times a day? I would do things over and over, forgetting that I had already completed the task.

schroeder said...

I am cursed with a proofreading knack that often has me finding spelling and gramatical errors in the weirdest places (like paragraph 4 of this piece; I believe you menat to pluralize neural pathwayS).

Don't mean to call you out, just trying to help you with your brain.

Continued well wishes from the Burke clan (who got some good news on the JoJo front this week).

lpd said...


Dno't wrory abuot bda typnig. I do it all teh thyme.


Lynn said...

To lpd,

I believe that his called "baby brain", and yes Kate, I forget what I am doing all the time. Could be that I am 50 and early dementia is setting in..