Word loss & cancer meds

I attended a memory fog class before going back to work. A single class for memory issues makes me laugh, I wonder how many times I went….Don’t get me wrong, it helped, I took notes and brought my husband and friend, between the three of us we got a lot out of it. I keep imagining people taking it on their own and maybe not getting as much out of it. I would think a series would be more helpful and less forgettable. The important lesson is not to be frustrated by the memory events, it doesn’t help.

My main issue is searching for words. At the time I went back to work about one in three sentences had a missing word. Remember, frustration doesn’t help. Now it is much better, about 10 months from the last treatment it’s better but not cleared up as much as I would like. I also have holes in my memory, some things are just missing. Especially things that happened during treatment. The more normal the experience the less likely it was to make it into long term memory. Both of these are as a result of the heavy medication from surgeries and chemotherapy infusions.

As I type this there are times when I intentionally have to type the incorrect word so that it gets out of the way and the right word will come to me. The same thing happens while speaking, I will intentionally say the wrong word followed by “no, that isn’t right” and then the right one will pop right into my head. It is frustrating even though frustration doesn’t help at all.

One day my oldest daughter needed to know the quadratic formula. I was trying to remember and kept stumbling. My husband went to Khan Academy and showed it to her on his phone. Done. I was so angry that I couldn’t recall it at all, let alone as easily as I could before treatment and he was just watching me getting worked up. Our daughter completed her homework. I was frustrated because I think it is cool to be able to solve a hairy quadratic equation with the formula, then plug those numbers in and watch it go. I think that is fun, and now it is gone.

I know that it can be replaced, I learned it once, no reason not to be able to learn it again. Yet, the frustration is real.

I love to teach lean and six sigma classes at work, honestly, I love to teach anything that is going to help my coworkers make their work days better. I was tasked with teaching all of the lab folks the basics of continuous improvement a few weeks after coming back to work. This is by far my favorite thing to do, placing a little tinder and then watching the spark ignite it, it is the best thrill at work by far. I love those lightbulb moments! I was scared that while doing these classes my memory would fail and I’d be standing there without something relevant and useful to say.

The person who tasked me with this also gave me a partner, a great guy with a great attitude and the kindest heart. He was there the whole time, especially when the words failed a few times early on. He did so with a great sense of humor, and each class he would tell me how much better my memory was and how much better my frustration level was. He was my meter and it was great.

The lab folks are fantastic, they taught me a new word. Taught may be a strong word since in full disclosure I had to look it up to write about it: lethologica–coined by Carl Jung. It is the inability to remember the proper word. You know that it is the wrong word, you are not oblivious to the fact that you aren’t using the word you intended–hence the frustration, which apparently isn’t helpful.

My family is great too. They are patient with me and my funky pauses, facial expressions and frustration. Sometimes they try to help, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we have fun with it, sometimes we don’t. As I read this blog aloud to my oldest she pointed out that sometimes I get angry when they try to help, sometimes I don’t.

The interesting thing about memory fog is when the proper word is missing, or being blocked by the wrong word, all of my curse words are readily available. Seriously, I have not lost a single curse word or its proper application and they are never the blocked or blocking words. Not sure what Jung would say about that!

Be patient give yourself a break, push yourself when appropriate and keep trying. I would say don’t be frustrated by it all, but that would be a challenge since I am still frustrated by it daily. Find yourself a meter, someone who can tell you the truth and are kind. It will get better and that is helpful.

Published by survivorsherpa

I am a wife and mother to three daughters, a chemist and a breast cancer survivor. I would very much like to help others by caring and advocating for them while sharing my experiences and tips that may help to thrive during and after treatment.

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