Monday, September 10, 2007

Chemo Brain and Fatigue

I need to write about two side effects of cancer treatment that I’ve tried to pretend weren’t happening to me. For folks who don’t know a lot about cancer, this little primer might be helpful in understanding cancer patients. For those who know all this already, have patience. (I can still pull out the puns, chemo brain or no!)

Chemotherapy kills cells everywhere in the body. The drugs don’t zero in on just the cancer cells; it’s more like a blietzkrieg that carpet-bombs any cells that are fast-growing. Chemo kills brain cells and this leads to things like memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and slower thought processing.

This might seem like a trivial side effect compared to losing body parts and hair, but for me, this is far more serious. I can do without breasts and hair. But without the sharpness of mind, ability to multi-task, and general mental flexibility and strength, I’m not me.

And then there’s fatigue – the kind of tired you just can’t get rid of with sleep. It’s down-in-the-bones tired. I didn’t have this the first time around, but I’m feeling it now. I have to admit that there are times in the day when I just want to lie down wherever I am – on the floor in the supermarket, in the car, anywhere.

And much to my surprise and disappointment, not everyone is understanding about these sides effects. I don’t really blame them. Many people just don’t know about chemo brain and fatigue. They’re not visible like baldness and vomiting. I guess it’s my job to educate my friends and family. But the reality is, the world moves on and people will not stop their lives or be inconvenienced because I have cancer.

So to all our friends and family reading this Blog, if I forget your birthday, if I forget to turn up for your dinner party, or if I don’t seem to be listening to you while you’re talking to me, it doesn’t mean that I don’t care about you or what you have to say. It may be because I have fewer brain cells than I used to. That, or I’m actually asleep.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you had to explain this, Shin. I can't believe there's anyone out there who thinks things should move any faster than you can handle. This made me so sad. Come over to my house and lie on whatever surface you like. Listen to my babble only if you can.

Shin said...

Hi "Anonymous". Thanks for offering your floor to me. I'd gladly listen to your babble, except I don't know who you are. Introduce yourself to me and the other Blog readers. I'd like this to be a place where some of you can even talk ABOUT me and say things like, "Why is Shin's hair looking so funny these days?" Anyone who knows me knows that I'm really hard to offend. I'm usually the one who does the offending. So don't be shy. Talk about whatever you want on this Blog and let me know who you are. Cancer is hard on friends and family too -- in some ways, even harder than it is on me. Let me help you get through my cancer. That sounds stupid, but I'm serious. I don't want to die and leave a bunch of sad people around. I want you to be okay with all of this. See, now I'm the one who's babbling.

Deb said...

Looking on the brighter side of this Shin, does it means that for once I might actually win an arguement or you might even be too tired to argue :)

I don't believe that for a second XX