Here are just a few examples of what patients call chemo brain:
Forgetting things that they usually have no trouble recalling (memory lapses)
Trouble concentrating (they can’t focus on what they’re doing, have a short attention span, may “space out”)
Trouble remembering details like names, dates, and sometimes larger events
Trouble multi-tasking, like answering the phone while cooking, without losing track of one task (they are less able to do more than one thing at a time)
Taking longer to finish things (disorganized, slower thinking and processing)
Trouble remembering common words (unable to find the right words to finish a sentence)
From the website.
I can honestly say that I feel all of these in addition to mood swings, "having no filter" as Jamie puts it (I already have a pretty poor filter, I tell her I don't have time to be nice sometimes and would rather be honest) and having a short fuse.
I would consider my self a very "sharp" person. I get things fast, I can explain complex ideas in simple terms. I have a quick wit and I can generally figure problems out with out any...problem.
But...chemo brain...sucks. I talk slow and think slow for about 10 days after chemo, generally it tends to hit me around Day 3 the hardest and is usually vastly diminished by about day 10. My thinking is still distorted but I feel about 80% back to normal. It's like the flood gates suddenly open and thoughts/ideas start flying at their normal rate. It takes me three times as long to get the same sentence out as it normally takes during those 10 days. Not only because I have to think more to get my point salient, but also because I talk slower.
My thoughts are a lot like herding cats sometimes.
And since I talk slower and think slower, I want to make sure that my point is crystal clear so I don't have to invest more time and energy into dissecting and explaining my point.
I have/had/who knows anymore ADHD. I was the kid who was bouncing all over the walls in school and the adult that can't sit still. My mom used to (and still does because I still do it) give me shit all the time for shaking my leg or constantly moving.
It's just something I have to do, like breathing. I can't control it that well. It's like a scratch you have to itch. I HAVE TO MOVE! I HAVE TO DREAM! I HAVE TO CREATE!
Chemo brain makes those things harder.
Quick Note - ADHD is probably one of the most over diagnosed mental disorders. Before you think your kid has ADHD and you decide to get them hopped up on ritalin, pull processed sugar out of their diet, have them eat more fiber and healthy fats and make sure they get exercise. I see it a lot (you can smell your own) - this kid/adult doesn't have ADHD, they have a need to burn off the processed sugar you just gave them.
Some of us are better sugar burners, some of us are better fat burners. You give a bunch of sugar to a sugar burner and they want to MOVE! In fact they HAVE to move. You can't expect them to sit still because they can't help it. Their body is literally telling them to get up and burn this sugar.
I actually credit my intense hyperactivity with a lot of the success I have had in life. Not so much in school...but hey...it's not my fault the teachers can't teach at the rate I can learn.
That's also the thing with hyperactivity/ADHD - it's not that we can't focus, we can focus just fine. But our brains are operating at a faster level then sometimes every one else, so we get bored, move onto different things and ultimately have problems concentrating because we already figured it out and are just waiting for you to catch up.
That's my story and I am sticking to it.
I DIGRESS. I think the best way to explain how my brain USUALLY works is with pictures.
Let's say this little guy is a thought. Just swimming around in my head.
This is what my brain is usually like. AAAAALLLLLL those thoughts just swimming around.
Once in a while a thought or multiple thoughts pop out...a big idea, a grand plan!
So, I gobble it up! Then act on that plan, often times there are lots of ideas that jump out and I need to figure out which plan is the best one for me to gobble up.
And now...how I feel like my brain works.
Lot less fish.
I still catch the ideas and gobble them up...
But...I don't often have the energy to do anything with those ideas.
So, I think slower. I have less mental energy to invest into things. Which is sometimes nice because I find I often over think things.
However, I find that there is clarity in thinking slow. I have had a lot of very profound thoughts and epiphanies in the last few months. Things sometimes seem clearer, less bogged down and easier to solve.
I think the solution to the problem is more important then whose solution it is or even if it's the BEST solution. It's a solution, there are always better solutions to a problem, but what your looking for generally isn't the better solution, but rather A solution. That's new for me.
Fix the problem, then if need be, fix it better.
Now my thoughts sometimes come at me like this. Big thoughts. Just one. But very clear.
Clarity in thinking slow.
Oh yeah...and one more thing.
This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?
I am going to leave you with a picture of a shark...because it scares the shit out of me and you should be scared of sharks.
We all have one, right? Do you want to know mine? Would you like to find out how a Warrior Wizard lives their life after being diagnosed with Cancer?