Monday, 13 June 2011

Chemo Brain

My favourite Disney character of all time is Dory, the blue fish from Finding Nemo. I love her because she's hilariously funny and I feel I can associate with her. Don't get me wrong - I don't suffer from short-term memory loss (I do speak Whale though), but the past few years I've noticed that my memory is completely shot. I've blamed it on my two epidurals, but apparently now I can even blame chemotherapy. Sadly, the concept of 'chemo brain' is not an urban myth: studies have been done and it's been proven that both radiotherapy and chemotherapy mess with your memory and cognitive thinking and its effects may last up to five years.

This is really bad news: even before chemotherapy I found myself indulging in many forms of James Joyce 'streams of consciousness' dialogues with myself, and even more worryingly, with others. I have not recognised half the people who ask me to be their friend on Facebook. Most of them turn out to be classmates from high school or university and apparently, I even snogged one of them. (Oops.) And when I do remember something, it's a bit skewed: I was convinced that my father tried to drown me when I was a wee babe, whilst my mother and godfather watched gleefully. (I even remember my swimsuit: a red and white stripy number with an anchor design in front.) When I confronted my parents about this attempted infanticide, I was told that yes, my father had held me over a boat and let my feet dangle over the water when I was two. But apparently we were on a boat one lovely summer holiday and my father certainly was not going to let go - they just wanted me to enjoy the water - or so they say... (My parents found this memory very funny by the way. All I can say is a word to the wise: be careful what you do to your children as you may scar them for life.)

If this is what my memory was before chemotherapy, I cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like when this whole episode is over. Currently, not enough research has been done on chemo brain to prevent it. So again I'm having to rely on my instincts. Although I will not turn my back on trashy magazines, it now seems imperative that I go back to hours spent doing killer sudoku. I was so addicted to this puzzle at one point that I would spend a couple of hours each day solving them. I had to eventually wean myself off as I was not getting anything done. Well, now I can do them with impunity. It's for the sake of my mental health after all. So forget the pile of laundry or ironing: it's puzzle time for me.


  1. what do you mean turn your back on trashy magazines??????????? They are my religion!!! When all else fails you can rely on Jordan or Kerry to have f**&ed up more than you!

    And, also at least you now have an excuse for sounding barking! What's mine....(on seconds thoughts lets not go there!) Lynne x

  2. Reading this blog post, I am reminded of this very insightful nugget of wisdom, which I will now share with you:

    The... err... I totally forgot what I was going to say. What's this blog about again?

  3. Just keep swimming... Just keep swimming...
    XOX Queenie

  4. If there's one, and hopefully, ONLY ONE thing that chemo takes out of your memory, Chinot I hope it's the alleged drowning attempt by me on you when you were such a fantastic and lovely two-year old kid.

  5. Q: How many people with 'chemo brain' does it take to change a lightbulb?

    A: Lets go ride BIKES!

    (ok I adapted that one from 'how many kids with ADHD' but you get the gist!)

  6. There is a book about Chemobrain, but of course I can't remember its name or who wrote it, and I have no excuse. Still, I'm sure Google will turn it up (and how many of us have turned our short and long-term memory over to Google? I know I have, and am obscurely disappointed when it can't inform me what I got for my 6th birthday, for instance).

    If you want brain game fun, try Lumosity...