So THAT’S My Excuse!

There I was yesterday, happily reading the paper when I stumbled across an article that has particular significance to me.  It seems that a recent medical study was done on women who had been treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer using the typical 3-drug regimen.  These women had undergone chemotherapy on average about 21 years ago.  Now this is where it gets really interesting.  They were tested against a control group of women who had never had chemotherapy.  The results?  The women who had received chemotherapy scored SIGNIFICANTLY worse in cognitive tests, memory functions, and other tests related to the brain’s functioning.

Apparently this is the first study to suggest that “chemo brain” might actually persist permanently after treatment.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term “chemo brain”, let me give you an example.  When I was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, my aunt from Wisconsin came out to Pennsylvania to stay with us for a week’s visit.  Months later, after I’d finished my treatments and was doing some scrapbooking, I was astonished to come across pictures of this aunt and me at our house.  I had NO recollection of her coming out for a visit.  Chemotherapy can make you feel like you are in a mental fog or it can leave you with whole gaps in your memory.  It’s a weird sensation but one that I certainly never thought would be branding you long after treatments were completed.  Previous medical thinking was that this “chemo brain” phenomenon might last as long as five years but not longer.  This new study shakes up this thinking AND has  relevance to a lot of people. More and more women are surviving and thriving long past the five-year point after chemotherapy, thank the dear Lord!

“Well, that explains a lot,” I told the Commander.  “Now we know why I’ve had problems over the past years with memorizing things and why my reasoning skills have become so convoluted.”

“That might explain things for you,” he replied, “But what about me?  Why do I have problems remembering things?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” I said.  “You’re old.  I just have chemo brain.”

I laughed (well, actually I cackled but let’s not get nasty about it, eh?).

Later, I was telling all this to my daughter during our weekly phone call.

“Just think what a genius I could have been all these years if I hadn’t had that chemo,” I told her.  “Instead I’ve had to settle for just being brilliant.”

“Jeez, Mom, you’re not too conceited, are you,” she laughed.

“Nope, just realistic,” I replied.

 Of course, I might have been in a fog at the time brought on by prolapsed chemo brain, which shall now be my excuse of choice for every stupid thing I do in the future.  And that, my friends, only goes to show that there is a silver lining to everything if you use your cognitive skills to find it, reduced though they may be.

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