In a conversation with my Palliative Care doctor the other day, we were talking about an embarrassing moment of mine. I had recently picked up a new prescription at the pharmacy and, in my chemo fog, almost immediately lost it. While I was worried about the medicine and what to do about the problem, he wanted to talk about the fog.
“This memory issue,” he said, “it’s not a symptom that you’ve mentioned before.”
“I know,” I replied. And only half-joking, added “I always mean to, but I keep forgetting.”
He’s one of the first people to take my forgetfulness seriously. Although there isn’t really much you can do to treat “chemo brain,” he explained that there are strategies that can help. As we talked, we came to realize that I’ve been developing those strategies myself without realizing it. It’s the special educator in me; I wasn’t reaching my goals and objectives, but I am killing it on the “accommodations page” of my mental IEP…
- I religiously put my pocketbook in the same place whenever I come in the door and I never take my keys out of it.
- I only take medicine in the mornings and at bedtime so that I don’t have to remember to take something in the middle of the day.
- When I need to schedule appointments in Palliative Care, I ask them to call me because I know for a fact that I won’t remember.
- While I used to be the girl who would carry 17 grocery bags in one hand to avoid going back to the car, I now just plan for multiple trips in and out of the house, up and down the stairs.
- Heidi at Woof While You Walk has begun to text me on Tuesday mornings to remind me to bring Moxie to daycare because I’ve forgotten several times.
- I now just suck up my pride and ask people to tell me their names as many times as it takes, trying to explain without apologizing that, while my memory is terrible, I truly do want to know their name.
And here’s the thing about when I say that: people laugh and tell me that their memory is bad too. I don’t argue, but I think to myself that they just don’t get it. And then comes a wave of guilt because I actually have it pretty easy in the grand spectrum of memory loss. It’s just that sometimes when I drive out of town I have to say the name of my destination out loud so that I don’t forget where I’m going.
So, as my physician pointed out, it’s not nothing. It’s a thing to be taken seriously and to monitor. And I feel like it worries me extra because of a family history of dementia, but it’s also something I think I need to keep a sense of humor about. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? I mean we’ve been doing that with colon cancer in general for over two years now.
Honestly you guys, I’m so tired of having a sense of humor about hard things. I’m ready to try to have a sense of humor about knock-knock jokes or dog-shaming memes on Facebook instead. Who’s with me?