Tuesday, 2 October 2012

I Refuse To Be a Victim to "Chemo Brain!!

It's been an emotional week in many ways.  I've tried to be there for my daughter and comfort her as she has been in pain with a broken finger.  I've tried to "mother" her and then respect her wishes to leave her alone.  I've tried to keep her safe and provided a "walking partner" as she chose to walk through an industrial area in the dark in order to meet up with some friends.  I've put up with her teenage attitude and tried to understand what it was like to be 14 as I've extended myself physically to my own detriment.  I've been grieving in my own way the loss of a friend due to cancer.  I've been praying for and grieving for a friend and her family as they continue to deal with the loss of her mother.

Some hurtful things have been said in the last few days and a lot of this comes from lack of world experience.  My husband and I made a choice to try to limit the impact of the chemotherapy on our teenagers' lives.  In hindsight, this may have been a mistake.  I've been accused of wanting to make people feel sorry for me and playing the victim.  I'm going to try to explain what life is currently like as I'm moving forward and getting back to living a "normal" life.

As stated in the blog in the last few weeks, I've returned to teaching privately and juggling my normal responsibilities.  I'm enjoying this return to health and normalcy.  The drawbacks and reality are I still tire easily and I'm struggling with some cognitive issues due to the very real and documented "chemo fog" or "chemo brain".  I'm trying to live with this and move beyond this.  In private moments at home with my husband, we discuss the memory issues because I need his help in remembering to do tasks and to recall conversations that I do not remember having.  I've been accused of "playing up" the chemo brain just for sympathy.

The reality is that I have forgotten appointments but thank goodness someone else in the household has remembered them in time so that nobody has missed any appointments.  Sometimes, I need my husband's help in order to compose a letter or memo because my brain hits a "wall" and I go completely blank and cannot finish the thought or come up with the appropriate words. At that point, I end up with a headache as well.  I have conversations with people and I am often stopping in mid-sentence as I try to grasp the word that fits but I can't remember it.  Yesterday (Sunday) I was cooking some bacon.  When finished, I would normally leave the bacon grease to cool in the pan and then pour it into an old margarine container that I keep in the refrigerator then toss in the trash when it is full.  Yesterday, my mind was not working or thinking correctly and I poured the hot grease into the plastic container.  The thing is I know better!!  And then I did the most idiotic thing and I picked up the melting plastic container to put it in the sink.  The hot grease oozed out onto 2 of my fingers and I got burned.  My husband witnessed all this and even recognized that this is not normal brain function for me.

I write this, not because I want sympathy and the "poor Cathy" thoughts but, because I'm trying to document what life is currently like as I move forward and continue to heal.  Today, I taught a lesson and then had a break before the next onslaught of students.  I realized I hadn't done my month end financial records for September and I was having to start my October records today.  So I spent time working on my month end.  I totally forgot about making supper!  I used to tbe able to multi-task and juggle all these responsbilities in a timely and efficient manner.  I have found that as I have returned to work, I am not able to multi-task like I once did.  Is this because of "chemo brain" or "chemo fog" or is this because I'm tired and my brain is tired after concentrating on teaching.  I don't know the answer.  What I do know is that as I attempt to live life normally, I'm struggling with some cognitive changes.  I refuse to be a victim but it hurts and makes it more difficult to move forward when verbal barbs are levelled at me.

I could choose to be a victim and dwell on all the hurts.  I'm blogging about it tonight because it is helping me to process what's going on and my emotions to it all.   The reality is that words hurt.  I'm recognizing the pain I feel so that I can let go of it.  If I don't recognize the pain it will continue to fester and hurt more.  The words from the last few days have lingered and were interfering with my ability to rest and sleep.  So I've dealt with them now.  I'm putting them down to the fact that not everyone understands and when people don't understand, they make wrong assumptions and conclusions which then translate into hurtful words.

Perhaps this entry will help someone else who is suffering from "Chemo Fog" or "Chemo Brain" understand it is a real side effect.  It is not something that is made up for sympathy.  Hopefully the following link will also help people understand.


I will continue to move forward and live each day to the fullest.  I am very pleased that my ability to sing is slowly returning.  I was able to sing in the choir for one anthem at my friend's mother's Celebration of Life on Saturday.  I normally sing soprano but that is still currently out of my range.  I was able to sing tenor.  Unfortunately, it did tire my voice and I had to leave the reception afterwards because too many people wanted to talk with me and my voice was tiring very quickly.  The good news is that the voice is coming back.  It is still tired two days later but it is getting better.  Yayy!!!!


  1. Ugh...that mid-teenage period. Those years that make you want to pull your hair out. Or run out of the house screaming. Or get on a plane and go far, far away. You're not only trying to recover from your chemo fog, but you're also dealing with 'they-drive-you-to-drink' teenagers. The good news is that even that will pass. Don't take hurtful remarks to heart (no matter how hard it is not to). Forgive them for "they know not what they do". Or in this case "say".

    You're doing great, Cathy. Hang in there. Chemo fog and teenagers are a heavy load to carry, but you have what it takes to make it through. One day at a time.

    1. Thanks for your emotional support, Martha. It's truly appreciated. We parents must stick together to help each other keep our sanity.

  2. Great blog!
    Cheers from Argentina.