Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This Is Your Brain on Chemo

It turns out there's this very real phenomenon that people call "chemo brain."  It feels a great deal to me like what my friends and I have been calling "Mommy brain" for the past few years: a general sort of fogginess, a sense of fatigue, and an inability to concentrate.  According to this 2009 article from the New York Times, some cancer survivors experience these symptoms, and much more serious ones, for months or years after their treatment is finished.

I'm not completely unable to function yet, but this sure does feel real to me.  There are days when I just can't quite remember how to complete a sentence well (some days these blog posts take a ridiculous amount of time to complete), and more often than not, I'll find myself intrigued by a newspaper article only to decide a few paragraphs into it that I'd better come back later on when I don't feel so tired and foggy.  Sadly, that "later on" never seems to come, and so lately I've found myself starting all these interesting reads and failing to follow through.  I can talk for twenty seconds about lots of great stuff; just don't come to me if you want to hear the punch line.

Part of me is not surprised by all this.  After all, chemotherapy drugs are basically poison (remember my post about the biohazard warnings?).  They kill a lot of cells, so it stands to reason that one wouldn't get through all this with other functions unscathed.  Still, I'll admit to being a bit nervous about what I'll be like a year from now, after surgery and four full months of much more intense chemotherapy under my belt.  I hope I can still remember my name.

In the mean time, I'm slogging my way through it.  I feel the way I did in junior high when confronted with an algebra problem for the first time.  I recognize some of the symbols, but I just can't quite put it all together.

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