Chemo Brain = Old Age?

Is this what it feels like to get old?  If so – that sucks!

I sat down with Katya for a good game of Scrabble yesterday.  I love that game and have always been good with words so I have never really struggled.  The tiles just seem to fall into place and I can create a variety of words.  I always have been able to.  Yesterday, however, was an exception to the rule.  My brain was in a cloud.  I saw the letters but just wasn’t sure how to put them together at all.  Yup.  I saw the tiles.  No recognition.  Words used to jump out at me.  It was no effort.  I was the recipient.  Yesterday, however, I was a spectator.

You don’t believe me?  I spelled “ran” two times.  And that was good!  Put that on a triple word score and it is still only 6 points when you use the blank tile to help spell the word.

I’m not sure if the letters overwhelmed me – or just didn’t work for me.  It was scary.  I think the worst part about this cancer so far is the threat of a diminished cognitive ability.  If I can hang onto my mind through this whole thing – I’ll be fine.  Just let me keep my mind!  I can certainly also see the upside of using the brain though too since by the end of the game, the words came more easily to me.  Is that by trying?  Is that by adjusting to the demand?  I don’t know.

Going “out” to the store is an ordeal.  I have to take it slowly and think carefully about what I need.  I purposefully “put” my phone in my purse and my glasses in a side-pocket.  This routine is key.  My mind cannot multi-task well.  How the hell did I ever function in a class-room?  (That’s tomorrow’s topic so I’ll not spoil the read)

My pace is a crawl.  I had to get David to choose between playing Settlers or decorating the tree.. and I opted out of the tree because that also included finding the lights.  Finding lights involved multiple steps.  Geesh.

Now I know why Mom had to plan so much before we came for dinner and would be upset if last minutes plans emerged.  It is just plain hard to “change your mind on chemo”.

I forget words.  To compensate (because I get so frustrated) I just say whatever word comes into my head whether it makes sense or not.  Katya understands that she is no longer a team lead at Canadian Tire – she is a super-chef (what?), for example.  It beats stuttering and sputtering for sure.  I know what I mean.  Isn’t that what counts?  If I were older I’d be “admitted” for sure.  Having “chemo – brain” just seems to amuse … so far.  When will my words return to me?

I used to dance word circles around the room.  Now – it is a staggered polka to letter percussion.  Disjointed.  Disgusting.

If this is what old age will be like – I’m in trouble!

About inmycorner

This blog began as an opportunity to tell my Dad's stories. I sat with him and the computer and together we told stories. It was a wonderful way to get to know Dad. He was 9. He and Mom had a wonderful life together and since she passed away a year and a half before him - Dad was ready to join her. I no longer tell his stories but have found stories of my own. The impetus to resume this blog was the discovery that I had stage 4 ovarian cancer. Since blogging had been so therapeutic for my dad and I to get through our grief, I felt maybe this would be a good outlet to process my situation. I also hoped it may serve as an outreach to anyone else who is facing this very ominous journey. So far, so good.
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15 Responses to Chemo Brain = Old Age?

  1. While the chemo may definitely have an impact on the struggle for words, you may also find that because you are home more and don’t face the same hectic pace you had at BLC, that’s why your brain is playing with you. It makes sense (to me, at least) that you would find yourself combining French and English as you struggle for words. I find I like doing crosswords daily in an effort to stay sharp.

  2. kiwiskan says:

    Just a temporary hiccup! I’m getting on in years, and tend to forget words mid-sentence sometimes, but I still love crosswords and writing poetry…

  3. Sandra Bray says:

    Louise Hay’s Healing Affirmation for cancer:
    I lovingly forgive and release all of the past.
    I choose to fill my world with joy.
    I love and approve of myself.

  4. Tom Graves says:

    Here is a verse for you. II Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a SOUND MIND.”

  5. Gwen K says:

    So glad that your chemo brain has not diminished your ability to wordsmith your blog. Love being able to keep in the loop of your daily ups and downs.

  6. Well you certainly pulled all of your words together very well to give a very clear picture of this struggle. So well that I hope it helps others understand how this feels. It’s a very good insight to something we may not give consideration to. Thank you for sharing these with us Stacey. I hope by sharing with us, it helps you through these phases.

    • inmycorner says:

      Thank-you, Colleen. It makes me nervous to talk about my brain. Nothing else scares me. I don’t want to be considered anything less than I am at risk of losing my mind. How scary it is! I do feel better – funny – I tired out half way through the post – and just kind of quit. thought I’d re-visit it when I had more brain power. Wondered if it had translated on the page – my fatigue. I so much appreciate your critical feedback- it really helps me carry on!

      • Oh Stacey you’re very welcome. I thought it was very well done. And I don’t know if it helps or not….but when I talk to some of the people I work with who have gone through chemo they all tell me about “chemo brain” and how it did these things. And it didn’t change “them” but it was not easy to go through. It does seem that those who had good humor and great support through it weathered it better and got through it with less emotional trauma. It seems like you have the humor and support in HUGE abundance. 🙂

      • inmycorner says:

        Today – was a much better day – although I started to knit- mindless – thought I could give my brain a small work-out and rest between reading, blogging, and cooking. It does help to know that others have shared my angst. It is scary – being in the company of others helps me.

      • They kind of give you a map to navigate through this. 🙂

  7. Chemo does crash a person—I found my thoughts ran wild—but thankfully the mind and body are capable of restoring themselves once the onslaught is over.

    Now which writer was it that said he’d suffered untold agonies and woes in his life, some of which actually happened? Since you can’t cross into the land of “Tomorrow” today, it’s best to stay off the bridge lest you get dizzy and fall into the water. Or as Jesus said, “The morrow will take care of the things of itself. Sufficient unto the (to)day are the evils thereof.”

    I’ve signed up for Lumosity ( and work at that, both the programmes and the individual games. You could check it out if you haven’t already. The brain games are at different skill levels and would give your mind some mild flexing every day.

    • inmycorner says:

      OH, Christine. Thank-you for your feed-back. I always take heed and solace to and what you write. Glad to hear from you and yes, day by day. Also – I have luminosity so – I am confirmed to be on the right track. GOOD!

  8. pepesapam says:

    I am sure you will be back with your words on your next game of Scrabble, see you can expressed your beautiful words over here in your blog, so i am sure it will come back to you.
    As for myself also, i keep sticky pads nearby me so that i could jot down the things that i had to remember throughout the day, so you are not alone in this..!! Cheer up..!!

    • inmycorner says:

      good idea about the sticky notes! Maybe I should give them a try. you are always so kind about my writing – it means a lot coming from such an eloquent writer such as yourself.

      • pepesapam says:

        It’s because you are such a good writer, one that can touch people’s heart with yoiur words. I don’t know whether i am an eloquent writer or not, but i do know that i am learning to write 🙂

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