Chemo Brain and Writing the Stories that are Mine to Tell

I had my first infusion of chemo drugs about two weeks ago and all went well. Next round in another week.

kathy first day of school pic copy

Not happy about chemo brain

One of the side effects of cancer treatment can be a little something that is often referred to as “chemo brain.” I think I have a bit of that going on with my brain. Right after that first round of chemo I found that the computer and I were not at all compatible. More than about 5 minutes of looking at the computer screen and I was done. And typing up something? The movement of my head up and down from keyboard to screen – not good. Fortunately, that has improved, but the computer and I just aren’t as comfortable with one another as we once were.

I think I have always been sensitive to drugs in my system and it’s one of the reasons I have always taken as little medication as possible. When I first started taking thyroid replacement, I was given what was considered the “standard” dose and was soon suffering daily panic attacks. Cutting the meds back by half solved the problem. After surgery a couple of years ago, I thought the anesthesia drugs would never work their way out of my system. I couldn’t drive for nearly six weeks because of the vertigo I felt when turning my head from side to side – something one must do with some frequency when driving. So it’s no surprise, really, that I would feel some effects from the strong drugs currently coursing through my body.

Some people experience effects similar to Alzheimer’s or other dementia – problems with short term memory, an inability to come up with a word, etc. I haven’t experienced any of that yet. Instead, I feel like my brain works in very slow motion. Sometimes so slowly that there isn’t a thought there at all, it seems! It is the “executive” function of my brain that is the problem – the ability to plan, to make decisions, to think through a problem, to follow through.

This poses a problem for someone who would like to keep her blog going. Doing any real “genealogy” seems a bit out of the question at the moment as my little brain just doesn’t seem to have the capacity to think things through and make sense of them. I had a couple of additional posts in mind related to the Bryan Family Bible and I have one partially written. But I can’t for the life of me finish it! I don’t know what to say – are there some conclusions to draw from this? More story to tell? I don’t know! And so it will sit unfinished for the time being.

One of the things I need to do in response to my “chemo brain” is to use my brain and challenge it. I think writing and keeping this little blog going is one way for me to do that. But what to write when my brain is so foggy?

My first thought was just to do a weekly family recipe. But I like to prepare the recipe and take a picture of it to go with the post. I’m not really into cooking right now. And the perfectionist in me just doesn’t think a recipe with no picture is good enough.

My second thought was to pull out the “family treasures” – items that have come into my possession from my grandparents and others. I could take pictures of them and write whatever I know about them or any attached memories. And it would be a good record for my kids to know who these things belonged to and the stories (if any) behind them. I could do that, I think.

My third thought is to just tell some of my own stories. I may not be able to pull together the story of an ancestor, but I think I could tell some of my own. Yesterday on Facebook, one of my friends made a comment about bats (the animal kind) and I replied that someday I would have to tell her my bat story. I could do that.

I’m wondering about joining in with the “Book of Me” prompts that Julie Goucher is providing at Anglers Rest. I’m behind – they started August 31st, but maybe the prompts would be a good way for me to work my way back into writing – and just do it at my own pace.

Or maybe I’ll just tell some random stories – like my bat story.

We’ll see. At least I wrote something today!

P.S. – A fellow blogger was unable to post a comment here the other day. I’d like to know if anyone else has had that problem. The same day, my stats showed that 7 email followers had left my blog. Did they just all decide to drop me after my cancer announcement, or is that some kind of fluke too? If you have experienced a problem, please email me at:
abbieandeveline at gmail dot com.



6 thoughts on “Chemo Brain and Writing the Stories that are Mine to Tell

  1. Hey Kathy,
    I like ALL this ideas, and I don’t CARE if the recipe has no photo! You can add those later, if you insist. 🙂

    How about a course on Coursera? I’m doing one now on the Beethoven Sonatas by Jonathan Biss. I don’t do any of the graded stuff, I don’t have time for it — I just listen to the video lectures. First one I did was called Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets – it was fun! They’ll do a second offering of that one eventually.

    • Hey Cuz! Well maybe I’ll just do a little of everything then. I have never looked at the offerings at Coursera, but that is a good idea. I’ll take a look. Anything titled dirty little secrets sounds like fun.

  2. Kathy, I think your idea to write something–anything–on your blog is an excellent idea for exercising your brain while you put it through its paces with this season of chemo. I totally feel for you, as I’m also sensitive to drugs. Hopefully, those chemicals will do their job adequately and quickly and you can move on with your life!

    I just noticed yours is a WordPress blog. The other day, I saw some posts elsewhere about WordPress advising their customers to do an immediate update to fix a bug they had uncovered. In regard to the readers who’ve been having trouble accessing your blog, perhaps it would help if you could check to see if your blog needs the updated version of WordPress.

    Considering your “chemo brain,” your post today was certainly just fine. Glad to read an update from you. Will keep you in mind with prayers on your behalf. If nothing else, just a short post here and there would help everyone to keep cheering for you as you make progress with your treatment plan.

    • I have neglected maintaining my blog these past few months, so thanks for the heads-up about the bug and need to keep things updated. I am so non-technical that I tend to be neglectful about those kinds of things anyway. I’ll try to get that done today. Thanks again for your encouragement!

  3. Oh, Kathy!

    I’ve been meaning to comment on your last post for a few days but have largely been offline a couple of weeks myself (work deadlines, late nights, etc.). Still, I want you to know how much I enjoy reading EVERYTHING you write – whether it’s genealogy or not! My heart goes out to you these days. I can’t even begin to Imagine what you’re going through, but I admire your courage and resolve.

    Since you ask, you might consider writing whatever strikes your fancy and your energy level, whether it is about family, chemo brain, or posting a recipe or photo, as long as it gives you pleasure. The way I see it, your blog is not just about Abbie and Eveline, but about you, too – and the strength and wonderful qualities you’ve inherited from them. You have a very important story to tell. Your children and many others (including this loyal follower) will benefit greatly from it and your experiences. And if you don’t feel like writing and need a break sometimes, that’s okay. Your many readers will understand.

    Thank you for your eloquent and very moving post today. Hang in there. You’ll be in my prayers.

    • Hi Linda! Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and suggestions. You are so right about focussing on what gives me pleasure. “What will I enjoy writing about today?” seems like a good place to begin any time I sit down to write. Prayers and positive thoughts and encouragement keep me positive and grounded and full of hope. Thank you!

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