I am firmly in the grasp of chemo fog. Unless you’ve gone through chemotherapy, you cannot begin to imagine what chemo fog is like. There is nothing solid around you. It’s as if you are treading water, six inches from the side of the pool, but for the life of yourself, you just can’t find the edge of the pool. And no one can help you. The hand can be grabbing to pull you out of the water, but you don’t have clue what it is or why you should be grabbing it. My friends who’ve experienced chemo fog will probably tell me that’s a fairly close description, but no cigar.
I hate not knowing where I’m at. Right now, I can kind of feel the keys under my fingertips, but the Taxol (a toxic chemo drug) has given me neuropathy in my fingers and toes. I type by touch, but this is becoming extremely difficult. If I watch my fingers, I can hear my high school typing teacher tell me to “watch the chalkboard, not the typewriter.” Yes, I am that old. When I look at the keys, I make more mistakes. Which makes me mad, so I try to touch type, but get frustrated. I start running in a circle with no solid ground beneath me.
Then there’s the bane of all writers, my inability to find the right word. Normally, I don’t have too many problems with this. I can play around enough to come up with the imagery. Today, I can’t remember what you call the bag that goes in your tea cup when you want tea (yes, I now know it’s a tea bag, thank you). However, asking your husband for one of those baggy-thingies will not only get you a strange look, but a variety of baggy-thingies handed to you. I am typing words with letters transversed (which is not the right word, but I just can’t think of it right now – UGH!!!) and they look right. Then I can’t remember why I went into a room, even if it’s the bathroom and I really have to pee.
My head is no longer attached to my body in any sense other than the physical one. It moves, blinks, eats, smells, but it doesn’t really seem to do much else. It’s like having a big boulder (I was going to say large rock thingie, but the word came to me) on my shoulders that does nothing but display a variety of hats. Hats that I often can’t remember where they came from even if I bought them. This must be how a dementia patient feels.
This is why I am not freelancing right now. My work is not up to par. Look if I can’t remember what a tea bag is, I’m pretty sad. Chemo fog is like that. It sucks up all your good brain cells and leaves the ones that you damaged with too much partying in college (okay Mom, the secret is out). The ones that never fire on all cylinders anyway. Seriously, it’s tough when you look at your child, know he’s yours, but can’t for the life of you remember his name (I know it’s Kyle), but you can remember the nickname you gave him, or at least part of it (the bug in doodlebug). Calling your son “Bug” isn’t exactly good parenting, but at least he got recognition. Braeden just gets called “nut,” which is short for peanut. At least the nut fits.
So as I struggle to find some kind of solid footing right before Christmas, I find it difficult not to beat myself up. My husband, sons and Mom deserve to have a better Christmas than with their wife, mom and daughter to be walking around in some kind of weird drug induced haze. As I was wrapping presents, I realized I’d neglected to purchase anything other than the traditional gift for my mom or mother-in-law. Nothing, zip, nada. Sorry!
And that brings up another problem with chemo fog, which is especially troubling for me. I used to be able to keep everything in my head. I could juggle schedules, recipes, shopping lists, a conversation and a book at the same time. Now, I need to stick a post-it note to me to remember why I am walking to the kitchen. Shoot, I just took a minute to check out the Bengals game and couldn’t remember what I was writing. So very frustrating on too many levels to even go into. All my meds are written out in a notebook to remind me what I need to take since it varies throughout the chemo cycle. Great idea, if you remember to look at your notebook or if you remember to write down what you took when. Of course you also need to remember which drug it was if you take two different ones at the same time. Fortunately, John has learned the names of the drugs and knows what they look like so he asks me, based on the list, if I’ve taken the appropriate meds. I now even have to write down how often I need to take it. I can’t even remember that. What’s next, the geriatric pill box with the timer? My dad had one of those and HATED it. I don’t think he ever used the alarm, but I know he hated sorting out his meds.
So I have no solid ground, but there is a solid veil of love over me. No matter how much I beat myself up about ruining Christmas, I am here for it. God still reigns in heaven and tomorrow we will celebrate the greatest gift the world has ever and will ever receive, the gift of Jesus. My family loves me with unfailing love and friends pray for me. The ground may not be solid, but if I fall the landing will be soft.