The end of chemotherapy, ‘Chemo Brain’ & Me
Posted December 30, 2009on:
Done. Finished. Ended. Completed. Accomplished. Concluded. Fulfilled.
You get the picture (or at least can see it on the blog.)
Yes, I’ve had the last of the eight chemotherapy treatments in 2009 – just under the wire, perhaps, but done. I’m fortunate because it was an intensive regime of every two weeks instead of every three. It meant I had less time to rest, but was sure worth it at this end.
I’m not done with all treatments – I’ll have six weeks of radiation, hopefully in La Crosse but still up in the air, and ten years of an oral medication to prevent a recurrence. I’m all for preventing a recurrence.
You can see by the photo that a bit of a celebration is held at the end of the last treatment. Franciscan Skemp nurses sang, give me a certificate of accomplishment, a balloon and a cake that says “Congratulations Susan.”
My accomplishment, I joked, was “for being a good receptacle for the poisons you gave me.” These wonderful nurses laughed.
Chemotherapy is poison that we hope causes more harm to the cancer cells than to the receptacle.
And what of the notorious side effect, dubbed “chemo brain?” The American Cancer Society said about 70 percent of patients get this fuzziness of the brain, which includes such symptoms as:
- Forgetting things that we usually have no trouble recalling
- Trouble concentrating and focusing
- Trouble remembering details like names, dates, and sometimes larger events
- Trouble multi-tasking, like answering the phone while cooking, without losing track of one of them—less ability to do more than one thing at a time
- Taking longer to finish things—slower thinking and processing
- Trouble remembering common words—can’t finish a sentence because you can’t find the right words
I never had trouble multi-tasking, that’s for sure. I can’t do one thing at a time. And I’ve long said that I spend half my time losing things and the other half searching for them. I do struggle at times to find the right word, but is that chemo or just me at age 57?
Mostly, I think that my brain is A-OK. I have two things to thank for that, beginning with Facebook Scrabble. Yes, as someone suggested I might need a twelve-step program for it. I have 40 to 50 games going at any one time. (You just play the ones in which it is your move.)
Even in the darkest days, I played game after game on the couch with my MacBook on my abdomen. It kept my mind occupied and challenged. I absolutely loved it.
The second wall against chemo brain is this blog. It’s been great fun to chronicle my experiences in my own crazy way. I tried to find the humor in all this, but still acknowledged my pain, fear, and nausea and, yes itches and other internal challenges that my daughter felt was too much information.
But as Michael said yesterday, “Mom, you are one of a kind.” And, I am not shy about admitting it.