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Friday, August 9, 2013

Chemo Brain

For a number of months now, Gretchen has suggested that I am suffering from Chemo Brain.  Well, what does she know?  Pshaw!  Up until now, I have dismissed her suggestions as being somewhat unwarranted.

However, there have been a number of recent incidents that have set me to wondering.  Maybe I do have Chemo Brain.  Chemo Brain is a descriptor covering a broad collection of symptoms of those who have undergone chemotherapy, such as myself.  They usually involve memory loss, difficulty concentrating, difficulty multitasking, being disorganized, etc.

Something happened today that could be a symptom.  We have an electric Sunsetter awning over our deck that protects us from both sun and rain.  It was one of the first things we got when we bought our house about 10 years ago, and it has been a wonderful asset.  We use it almost constantly.  Well, today it stopped working.  Hmmm.  This has happened before, so I was pretty sure about the cause.  Any outdoor outlet must be GFCI protected.  However, the outlet on the deck is not a GFCI outlet, but I was 100% sure that this outlet was coupled with the GFCI outlet in the upstairs bathroom.  I checked that outlet and found it wasn't working properly, as I couldn't test or reset it.  Aha!  So I went to the hardware store and got a new GFCI outlet for the bathroom, confident that this would solve the problem.

I won't go into the details of my installation process.  Needless to say, I decided not to spend a half hour or so trying to run repeatedly from the basement to the second floor to find what circuit breaker the outlet was on, so I decided to do it while it was live.  For the most part it worked fine, although I did get a jolt once (ouch!).  Anyway, I got the new GFCI outlet installed.  Problem solved, right? NOT!

OK, now what?  I scratched my head for a while, checked wiring in the basement, rewired the outlet on the deck, all with no results.  I was crestfallen.  (I want you to take a minute to think about how I must have looked and felt in my crestfallen state.)  I mean it's really important to us that this awning works.  We had to leave the house because a potential buyer was coming to see it.  Just before leaving, I went into the downstairs half bath and noticed that the GFCI outlet that I had recently installed there had been tripped and the light was on.  Could this be the problem?  I reset the outlet and went out to check the awning.  Voila!  It worked!  All's well that ends well, right?

Maybe not.  Now my brain is very confused.  I was absolutely sure that the GFCI outlet controlling the awning was in the upstairs bath.  How could I be so wrong?  This is very disturbing to me.  When one thing that I am absolutely sure of turns out to be wrong, what about all the other things that I think I am sure of?  I think I am sure that I cooked pork chops for dinner last night, but maybe we actually went out and had a pizza.  How am I to really know?  There seems to be a blurring between memory and reality that is hard to fathom.

This is only one instance.  Gretchen has been telling me recently about things she says I have said that I have no memory of saying.  My first impulse is to deny having said whatever it was (unless it was something quite brilliant, which never happens).  But maybe she's right.  Maybe my memory is getting a bit foggy.  Shit!  Maybe I need to record all my conversations to be able to keep the record straight.  That would really suck though.  I don't ever want to have to go there.  A journal maybe?  I don't know.

And another thing.  I usually tend to be rather controlled and am seldom clumsy, unlike Gretchen, who often drops or breaks things.  Until recently, that is.  A few days ago, I knocked an empty glass off our counter and it smashed on the floor.  OK, that's one.  The next day at a restaurant in Newburyport, I knocked over my wine glass, spilling it spectacularly all over myself, the floor, and diners at the next table.  Really cool.  That's two.  Then today, I kicked over another glass and broke it.  That's three.  WTF?  I now consider myself a spastic.  Oh yes, and tonight while weeding in the yard, I lost my balance and fell into a rose bush.  (The scratches are healing just fine, thank you.)  I don't know if that couples in with the Chemo Brain, but those are just more disturbing recent symptoms that don't make me too happy.

As you know from my last post, my medical condition continues to be excellent.  All my test results (except anemia) are great.  However, there appear to be some mental (and perhaps physical) deficiencies that I have to deal with.  With Gretchen's brain damage from her accident, she also has lingering deficiencies to deal with.  Hopefully, we can help each other through these times, and it will all work out for the best for both of us.  Let's hope.


  1. Your memory problem sounds like old age to me, not brain damage. Your spasticity sounds like the problems that kids have when they are undergoing a growth spurt, and their brains have not adjusted their body image. Maybe you are experiencing a growth spurt or perhaps your second childhood. ;-)

    1. Maybe you're right. I like to think of my body image as like that of Brad Pitt's, but when I look in the mirror, my brain does not adjust well to that.

      My spasticity can't be from a growth spurt, since I have shrunk over 2 inches in the last 10 or 15 years. So maybe it's a second childhood. I think that's what Alzheimer's patients go through, so that could be it.

      Am I to be comforted by any of this?

  2. Perhaps these events will help you to be more tolerant and understanding of those of us who have lived with memory problems (I was called "absent-minded" as a kid) and awkwardness all our lives! This is what most of us have to contend with everyday! We even learn to joke about ourselves and change the subject quickly away from these little aberrances! Welcome to my world!
    Smiley face: ;-)
    Luv, Sue

    1. Hi Sue. Sorry to hear that you are as pathetic a I am. My condolences.