Why Am I Here?

“Why am I here?”

 You would not believe how many times I say this these days.  No, I don’t mean that I’m getting all philosophical on you.  I’m talking I get somewhere and really don’t know why I’m there.  This happens almost every time I go to the garage.  My garage is where I keep glassware, canning supplies, and other kitchen related items that I don’t have room for in the house.  It’s also the home of our two big freezers.  So I go to the garage at least once a day.  And nearly every time, as soon as I step inside I say, usually out loud, “Why am I here?”  The garage sits about 20 feet from the house, which apparently makes for just long enough of a walk for me to acquire amnesia these days.  The problem is not that the required information doesn’t stick.  Oh, it’s in there, but good luck retrieving it!  Usually, within a minute or so of asking myself why I’m there, and after the application of much concentration, I’m able to remember why I came.  But not always.

 I try to warn people that I don’t remember things, but they don’t seem to get it.  They say things like, “I’m the same way!”  Ha, ha—no, you’re really not.  Thanks to tamoxifen, I just lose information in my brain somewhere.  It’s like my brain is the junk drawer of my body or something.  Sure, what I need is in there somewhere, but I’ve got to mentally dig through a bunch of twine, pencils, scotch tape, and a nut cracker to find it. 

 Two weeks ago I was driving into town to take Mini Me to piano lesson.  In a deviation from the normal routine, I was planning to run by Goodwill before hand and drop off some items.  So, we ride into town, pass the turn to piano, and head for the Goodwill.  Except as we approached the intersection where I’d need to turn, I suddenly did not know what I needed to do.  “Do I need to turn here?  I don’t remember where I’m going. Where am I going? Think, think, stupid brain, where am I going?”  Tick tock tick tock.  Finally, at the last second I remembered, “Oh yeah, Goodwill,” and made the left turn.  Then last weekend, I was getting ready to open a can of tuna.  I carried the tuna over to the drawer where the can opener is kept, but when I got there I just stared at the contents of the drawer.  “What am I looking for?  I need…something.  I must need it out of this drawer since I opened it.  What am I doing?  Uh…opening a can.  And what’s the tool I need for that?  Uh…”   Really, it should not take so much effort to remember that you need a can opener to open the can you are holding in your hand.

 Either of those things ever happened to you?  Probably not, unless you’re on tamoxifen.  They never used to happen to me, either.  Thankfully I have both a sense of humor and a supportive spouse.  A big reason why I‘m able to laugh at these incidents is because I cling to the assumption that once I’m off of tamoxifen, everything will go back to normal.  But it’s not all bad anyway, because like I said I have a supportive spouse.  Hubster has been great about recognizing that the tamoxifen has caused memory recall issues for me.  So, what’s he gonna do, get mad?  No, because I can’t help it, right?  I’m not forgetful because I’m an insensitive and self-absorbed lout who is too wrapped up in herself to remember to pick up Hubster’s toothpaste at Walmart.  Nope, it’s the drug’s fault–I’m handicapped!  And while I would never, ever exploit this, it does offer a certain advantage for those times when I am just an insensitive, self-absorbed lout who got too distracted by a new bottle of nail polish to remember the toothepaste.

If I Only Had a Brain…I Could Think of a Snappy Title

I just realized that it’s been almost two weeks since the last time I posted.  A reader (Hi Theresa!) emailed me and asked if I was doing okay, and I thought “Well, that’s odd, it hasn’t been that long since I posted.”  Then I checked.  Yikes.  I guess it has been a while.  As usual, part of this is because life keeps rolling on, whether a girl has something to write about or not.  And sometimes I just don’t have much to say.  But it would be dishonest to say that either one of those was the case this time. 

 The truth is, I’ve been struggling.  I think that I have Tamoxifen to thank for this.  But knowing the cause doesn’t necessarily diminish the problem, and for the past week or so I’ve just been in a really crappy state of mind.  I do the things I have to do, but anything above that requires a conscious decision to suck it up and do it whether I want to or not.  Which I don’t.  And you can’t make me.  So there. 

 Now, I don’t want those of you that I’ve been around in the past week to think I was totally trying to fake you out.  I’m still up for joking around and chit-chatting.  But, I just have this underlying dullness of brain and general lethargy going on, and it seems to be getting gradually worse.  I’m starting to think that Tamoxifen is making me depressed.

 I hate to even say that.  It’s sounds so “wah wah wah wah waah”.  And trust me, I’m totally the least sympathetic person you know when it comes to stuff like this, and I’d be the first one to tell me to suck it up.  I think that’s part of why it’s getting to me so much—because it’s making me feel totally not like myself, and I’m about up to here with The Cancer and it’s accompanying meds trying to steal my identity!

 You guys have heard me gripe about the Tamoxifen before.  I believe it’s responsible for the fact that I can’t remember squat.  Chemo made me feel fuzzy headed, but I had about 5 months between chemo and Tamoxifen, and I noticed this persistent short term memory thing after I started the Tamoxifen.  I can handle the memory thing.  It’s kind of amusing to me, and I’ve learned to write most everything down—which works great since I’m a compulsive list maker anyway.  Really.  It bothers Hubster more than it does me.  But it’s discouraging to me that it affects my vocabulary—I’m trying to write, for crying out loud!  How am I ever going to get a book deal if I can’t even beat my 12 year old at Quiddler anymore?

 And this mood thing is really making me fed up, and considering that I have to take Tamoxifen for 5 years I’m beginning to wonder if there will be anything left of me by the time I’m done.  Can any of my cancer girls out there relate?  Do you feel like you’ve got a starving brain sucker on top of your head 24/7?  Have you been through this and can tell me that it’s only temporary?  Or do I need to go see the wizard and ask for a brain?

Thanks for the Memories…or not.

(We’d have a Flashback Friday, but I can’t remember anything)

It’s a good thing I have a sense of humor about this whole short term memory loss thing. 

Chemo kind of scrambled my brain, but it was getting better until I started taking Tamoxifen.  I don’t know that cognitive issues are part of the official list of side effects, but ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that they should be.  And I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how researchers have been using estrogen to combat memory loss in menopausal women.  Tamoxifen is a freakish drug that acts like estrogen in some parts of the body, and acts against it in others.  Now, I’m no fancy-pants researcher, but I’m thinking that Tamoxifen’s effect on my body’s estrogen could be to blame for this lack of memory deal.

Of course, you may be thinking, “Moody, what do you mean by memory loss?  I forget things all the time.”  Let me tell you a story that illustrates precisely what I mean. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was at homeschool co-op.  I’d had to run out and get something for Mini-Me’s class project, and also some snacks for the science fair.  After I got back, I realized that I’d forgotten to get ice.  (No, that’s not the story) I didn’t want to run back out, and I asked another mom (Tonya) if she’d mind picking up ice.  She was needing to run an errand anyway, so she said, “Sure.”  Fast forward about an hour or so.  Susie says to me, “It’s getting close to lunch.  When was Tonya supposed to be back with the ice?”  I said, “Well, she had another errand to run, but she said she’d be back before lunch time.”  Ten minutes pass and Susie and I are walking down the hallway, chatting.  All of a sudden, I see flashing across my memory, Tonya handing me the ice and me putting it in the freezer.  Yeah, that’s right, Tonya had already been back.  I nearly fell over laughing.  “Susie—I already have the ice!”  <insert hysterical laughter>  “What?”  <more laughter> “I already HAVE the ice!  Tonya brought it to me and I put it in the freezer!  I totally forgot when you asked me!”  

Wow.

The other thing I’ve noticed is a lack of focus.  Like, Hubster will be talking to me and all of a sudden I find myself thinking about something completely unrelated to what he’s talking about.  Then, I realize I’m supposed to be listening, and I try to focus, but within 2 minutes, it happens again. Usually at this point I giggle at how ridiculous this all is, and Hubster just gives me a knowing look, and then answers all the questions I have about what I didn’t hear him say. Fortunately, Hubster has been pretty good about rolling with it, although he did tell someone the other day (I can’t remember who—imagine that) that I’m not the woman he married brainwise.

But he’s really been amazingly patient with my inability to retain information.  I mean, I think it’s funny, but I’m pretty sure if the tables were turned and he was the one who couldn’t listen for more than 30 seconds, or told me the same things over and over, it wouldn’t be funny anymore.  I’d be like, “How convenient for you that you can’t “remember” anything I say!  Are you sure you even “remember” who I am?!” 

(You know, there really needs to be separate punctuation for designating something in “finger quotes”, because that’s what I was going for in the above sentences.)

Welcome to My New Home

I keep getting compliments on my hair. And people keeping saying, “It’s coming in curly!” Yes, that’s because I have naturally curly hair. Sometimes I think I must have been darn forgettable prior to chemo because no one seems to remember what I looked like. Not only are people incredulous that my hair is coming in curly, but they actually tell me, “I thought your hair used to be straight.” A couple of weeks ago I asked Angie, “Hey, did I exist before I was bald?” You know, chemo has really jacked up my short term memory (more on that later…unless I forget to write about it) but people, even *I* remember what my hair looked like!  Sheesh! Of course, this is at least partly rooted in the belief that when people do chemo their hair comes back in different. Personally, I think this is a bunch of baloney. When you hair is a half inch long, any amount of wave it has will make it seem curlier than when it was longer and stretched out by its own weight. And if you used to color your hair, then of course your new sprouts won’t be the same color. Sometimes people say it comes back I thicker, but really, how would you know? You just spent the last 6 months bald!   

Last week I had my stitches removed, and met with Dr Birhiray. The last time I saw him was after the Tribune Star interview, but prior to the article actually being published.  I’d told him about it, and he asked me to bring him a copy next time. So, I took a copy when I went for my check-up. Dr B insisted that I autograph it, as if I am really some sort of celebrity. He’s probably got it listed on eBay for 99 cents right now with 2 minutes to go and no takers.   

I also griped to Dr B about not losing any weight. After weeks of working out, I weighed in one measly pound lighter. Of course, it doesn’t really help that my appointments are always right after lunch. And since we were running behind, lunch consisted of Steak N Shake. So there I was, griping that he’s making me fat with all this Tamoxifen, while the smell of cheese fries still yet lingered around me like a deep friend aura. But the way I see it, I’d have had those cheese fries if I weren’t working out, so the fact that I have been working out consistently should definitely overcome one meal at Steak N Shake.  I should still be ahead of the game. And I should be ahead by more than one stinkin’ pound!  

About that memory loss thing…you’ll be amused to know that I did indeed forget to write about it. It was only when I went back and read through what I’d written that I said, “Oh yeah!  Memory loss!” Welcome to life with me, post-chemo version. While it can be frustrating, it’s actually kind of amusing to me because it’s just so ridiculous. My long-suffering hubby can attest to the resemblance I bear these days to Dory from Finding Nemo. The only thing that has kept him from losing his mind is that he knows me well enough to finish most sentences for me. Still, that doesn’t help when he asks me to do something and I say, “Okay” and then immediately forget.  I guess it’s a good thing he loves me. 

There are some folks who will say, “You can’t claim chemo brain anymore.” Oh yeah?  Come hang out with me for a couple of hours and see if you still feel the same way. Ask any of my friends how many times I say things like, “Did I already tell you this?” Sure, it’s not like the very slow mental processing I had going on while I was actually doing chemo, but neither is it normal brain function.  At least 70% percent of the time I can’t think of the words I need to complete an intelligent sentence. My conversations are peppered these days with thingamajigs, doojiggers, and watchacallits. The names of people either completely escape me, or are crossed up with someone else. For example, the other day I commented to Mini Me, “Man, Emeril’s trying to kill me!” She said, “Emeril’s trying to kill you?” I just busted out laughing. I was actually not talking about Emeril at all. Instead, I was talking about Gilad, the exercise guru, whose dvd I’d done the previous day.  How on Earth I crossed up those two, I’ll never know. Mini Me astutely observed that indeed Emeril is the very opposite of Gilad.   

Clearly the synapses are not firing correctly.