Chapter 13: Chemo Brain 2: The Return of Forgetfulness

I forget everything these days. I mean EVERYTHING. In fact, I started this blog post 2 days ago AND THEN BLOODY FORGOT IT.

When I was going through chemotherapy the symptoms presented themselves as general mental confusion and fogginess and a lack of interest in just about anything that I used to enjoy. I found it difficult to follow conversations; especially if music or the TV was on in the background. It was like suddenly I didn’t speak English. I could see the mouth of the person who was talking to me moving, and sounds were coming out, but it just went straight in one ear and out of the other. Language error 404, not found. I explained to my friends and family that I was sorry if I seemed distant or moody, but it was scary feeling so overwhelmed by the smallest things like holding a conversation. I would find myself just nodding and saying ‘yeah’ and hoping that they didn’t realise that I had no clue what they were talking about.

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If that was ‘Chemo Brain’ the movie, this is the the sequel ‘Chemo Brain: The Return of Forgetfulness’.

Over the past few weeks, I have realised just how awful my short-term memory is now. I don’t have any problems with the long-term things like what my name is or what year it is (most of the time… I did almost put 2019 on a form a few months ago…) but the really short-term stuff I really struggle with. Every day I have pills to take in the morning and in the evening. Every day I get up and I stare blankly at my pill organiser (that has those compartments for the days of the week) with absolutely no idea what day I have just woken up to. I try to think about what I did yesterday or what day it might have been then and most mornings I come up completely blank. It’s like the previous day’s activities have been erased from my hard drive; just a black void where my memories should have been. I can only tell what day it is by using the previous day’s pills as a guide, and the one day each week where I wake up to a refilled pill organiser good old Google helps me out.

I have a million lists on my phone for things I have to do or to remember, and then I will set a reminder if it’s something that needs doing at a certain time otherwise I will forget. I can think of something important and in my head go ‘oh yes, that’s important, I need to do that’, but if something distracts me before I can write it down WHOOOSH, it’s gone. For maybe a few hours, maybe a day, who knows. It’s so frustrating. I know I’ve forgotten something that was literally just there in my mind but the harder I try to think of it, the more annoyed and anxious it makes me feel, so I try to just move on and hope it zips back into my head at some point.

The other night I was running a bath. The bath-tub is one of those ones that has twisty dial taps and a twisty dial for the plug open/close. I had both taps running. I wanted to stop the cold tap. What did I do? I opened the plughole and left both taps running. Did I sit on the bathroom floor for 5 minutes wondering why the bath was taking so long to fill? Yes. Yes, I did.

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