Friday, July 31, 2015

Rambling Again Still Once Again And Learning Even More As I Do

It's funny, but quite unintentionally this blog has turned into an online representation of what cancer is and has done with me.  I ignored my blog for a little while kind of like I ignored my health.   I look at all the different things I used to be interested in and passionate about to the point that I could write about it endlessly and then suddenly I slowed down.

I look and notice it was in mid 2012 I suddenly stopped blogging; probably when the symptoms of a disease I didn't consider first began.   I just assumed I had lost interest, but 2013 saw even less postings and 2014 saw only 2.  I look at that first "Cancer" themed post and I notice no other tab has been used since really.   That is the effect of cancer not killing you:  you keep living, but the cancer becomes an all encompassing thing that just absorbs every aspect of your life.  Politics, pop-culture, that annoying driver in the car that blocked your way into work; these things I used to be so passionate about to a point where I actually had four blogs running at one time for all my random thoughts are not pointless and moot.  I mean, how can you stare death in the face, walk away victorious, and still be impressed by the stupidity of minor fads or political blunders?  I've said it before, but not all of me survived cancer.

This week at my Cancer support group we discussed something called "Chemo-Brain."   It is something that was long thought to be an urban legend, but it has recently been shown to not only exist, but to last for a very long time.   So what is "Chemo-Brain?"   I've gone online and looked so you don't have to.

Chemo-Brain is a side effect of chemotherapy.   It has long been known that radiation can effect memory, focus, coordination, and various other brain functions for a period of time, but many people undergoing chemo had reported similar symptoms.   They, whomever "they" are, did research into it and found that chemotherapy does in fact effect brain function and this effect can last for five years or longer.     We can add this to the neuropathy (numbness in extremities) that chemo already provides for free.

Here's what I am experiencing:  First, feeling in my fingers mostly returned shortly after the chemo ended in June of 2014, but my feet still feel basically like I am wearing socks when I am not.   On some types of floors I actually have less traction barefoot than I do with socks on.   Very weird, but something one gets used to and it just becomes part of life.   It is not a "poor Brad" thing at all, but something I wanted to talk about in case other cancer people stumble upon this blog and are experiencing the same things and need confirmation:  yes, it is the chemo.

Now for Chemo-Brain.  I am no expert and am only speaking of what I am personally experiencing.   This may or may not be par for the course.   And while I don't need to say this, I still will say I am no doctor nor a scientist and am assuming based on my research and speaking with other cancer survivors that the things I describe here are attributed to Chemo-Brain.    I hate disclaimers.

OK, so you know we have "long term memory" and "short term memory," right?  For me, my short term is fairly sharp and in vivid detail while my long term is basically a highlight reel of the event or time I am remembering.   The memories also feel differently: short term feel fresh and alive while long term feel fuzzy and like history long past.   Short term memories contain emotion while long term are detached views of events.   Well, my short term memories feel like long term ones: they are hazy, vague, detached, and long in the past.   The problem is that things that happened 2 minutes ago feel that way and that is if I remember them at all.

Here is an example from today: I was at work and calling patients to see if they were ready to schedule.   I was in the groove doing it and, while not succeeding in getting them to commit, was successful in making them know we cared and were there for them.   It was going great until a call came in and I answered it.  I think it was a doctor's office, but it might have been a patient, but either way it required me to leave my desk to get a file.   I sat down, finished the call, and began surfing the internet completely forgetting about the calls I was making.   As far as I could remember, I was done with my work and had nothing to do.  I remembered making the calls, but it was so long ago according to my recall that I had to be done.    And, to be honest, I can't say for sure if this actually happened today, yesterday, last week, or last month.   Probably all of the above.

Now I know I went out to lunch with my mom today.  I know where we went.   I know what I had (because I had leftovers), but I'll be damned if I remember anything we talked about.   NOTHING!   I know we talked.   I hope it was good.  And by Sunday or Monday I won't remember which day I went out to lunch with my mom, but I will remember going out to lunch with her.   That is the weird thing about this Chemo-Brain that I think I am experiencing: I do remember events, but not details.   Everything is a blur, like when you drive home drunk by accident:  that feeling when you pull into your drive way and have a sudden realization that you drove, but you can't recall doing it.

Still no "poor Brad" here though, because in typical Kanrei fashion I have turned this into a positive and a lesson I believe I needed to learn.  I have learned to live in the moment and get the most out of every second that you can.   This is a lesson I REALLY needed to learn as I was someone obsessed with the mistakes of yesterday and worried about the mistakes I will make tomorrow.  Cancer first removed worry about tomorrow with the threat of death that I had to accept and now has removed the worry of yesterday by taking it and making it history instead of a ghost haunting me; sitting on my shoulder asking "are you sure" with every choice I make.

The pre-7/30/13 Brad, when I think about how I would describe him, amazes me he had friends.   It amazes me he never killed himself.   It amazes me he ever had a girlfriend,   It amazes me his parents never felt shame and disappointment when they looked at him.  And it amazes me that he had the strength to become this post-7/30/13 Brad I am proud to be.

Is it weird that I am kind of thankful for cancer?  I said something akin to this at group and I could tell the concept bothered them and I can understand this because they were probably great people having an amazing life that cancer destoryed, but I wasn't there.   It took cancer to make me realize life had value and, pardon the expression, a limited lifespan, but I am drifting into topics I have already covered.

Thanks for reading.

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