Spend enough time with me and you’ll begin to notice some slight but significant differences in my person. I’m not talking about the obvious stuff: the buzzcut blonde hair, the chemo pump occasionally attached to my right arm. No, I’m referring to my personality, my social skills, and my intellect.

Honestly, I have never felt dumber in my entire life. My short-term memory is comparable with that of a flea. I find myself halfway through an amusing anecdote and then drawing a complete blank about the point of the story or its ending. If you ask me what I had for dinner last night I will need a few minutes. If you want to know what I did during the day…I will need longer. If you want to know what I did last week, I will need to refer to the calendar hanging on the fridge. I suck at google calendar (but to be fair I wasn’t super good at it in the first place).

I know for a fact that my friends are having to repeat stuff to me within the space of a ten-minute conversation. I can tell by the look of, “Is she serious?” that comes over their face very briefly before they kindly remind me of what it is I’ve missed.

But the worst part is that it feels like part of who I am socially is missing. Over coffee with friends on the weekend (I know I did this because it’s on the calendar), I found myself struggling to follow the thread of conversation at times. Or worse, redirecting the conversation back to myself so that I could contribute something. Meanwhile, all I have to talk about is cancer and chemo, and what a fun time that is for everyone!

At times, there seems to be a numbness about me. Typically this exists in the space that is five days post-chemotherapy. I can be listening to or watching something I know in my head to be hilarious and I cannot seem to muster even the slightest physical reaction. No smile. No laugh. Nothing. Similarly, I’m in a conversation with someone and I am giving them NOTHING. I hear what they are saying but it’s as if I can’t quite get a hook on the thread. To compensate, I just start phoning in responses. The poor person must think I am so rude but there is a whole internal dialogue happening for me. “React, you idiot! Laugh. Say something. Ask a question! Do something!!” It’s not that I’m not interested, I just seem to have nothing worth saying within me.

For some of my family and friends, this recent development might actually come as a pleasant reprieve. For the first time in my life, they can get a word in edgewise. I should be content to kick back and let others have a say. But those who know me well understand I won’t go down without a fight.

Apparently, this phenomenon is commonly known as “Chemo Brain”. What a creative and jolly title! Inspired. I’d like to suggest one or all of the following as possible substitutes:

  • The “Unstaffed Lighthouse” Syndrome
  • The “Bottom of the Fridge” Cognitive Profile
  • The “Look at that shiny thing! Wait, what shiny thing?!” Memory/Attention Interplay
  • The “Guess what she’s thinking (Hint: Not a lot)” Emotional Under-reactivity

In the beginning, I didn’t predict chemo brain would bother me compared with the other crap on the treatment shopping list. Friends who have been through it recommend memory assistant apps. I’m probably ready to sort that out now.

In the meantime, if I am talking to you and I look bored I promise, I’m not. I’m trying really hard to hit the ball back over the net. I’m just on a different court.

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3 thoughts on “The lights are on but…

  1. It was awesome to see you pet, you’re still fun and we love you long time chemo brain or not!
    And FYI you were always good at redirecting the conversation back to yourself 😉 xxx

  2. Imagine us together…. We could just sit & probably start laughing because we are both on the same page!
    Sending you so much love 💕

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