Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Making Like a Mushroom

I felt pretty good yesterday. I was surprised. Today I feel like I thought I might feel yesterday, if that makes any sense! Of course, Sunday after the walk was a total right off. Sleep and lazing about was all I did.

Today I feel a bit of stiffness from the walking! In my butt and mostly in my shins. It feels good to ache in a way that's related to activity instead of drugs. I generally felt kind of crappy today. Nothing I can put my finger on ... my stomach is fine ... I don't have a headache. I just feel SUPER blah! I worked through lunch, came home a little early and slept for a couple of hours.

Except for a bit of a wonky day on Sunday (and even then I was quite disciplined), I'm sticking to my diet. What's changed though is that my fat cells have finally figured out that they're under attack and they've now rallied their troops. They're putting up quite a fight. I'm not sure if I'll have lost any weight at all this week. Maybe I'm underestimating but I know if I have lost any, it won't be much. I certainly didn't expect to lose again as much as did that first week.

I like to imagine my fat cells as a sprawling city. They've been enjoying a flourishing economy. They were so busy with immigration and a overflowing maternity wards that they didn't even notice the quickly growing pile of missing cells reports in their security department until some fat cell issued an amber alert and then the alarm was raised. I got a good 10 days on them before they were able to rally, though. Yessss! They have really stepped up their defences, though, and the battle of my bulge(s) is gonna get ugly from here on in, I'll bet. Me against them. We'll see how this plays out.

The other more serious issue that is causing me some concern is my brain. Just as my joints appear to be improving a little, I find my memory and cognition worsening. For a while at work, I felt it was improving OR perhaps I was just getting used to it. Maybe the work I'm doing right now and some of the issues that have arisen are just more cognitively complex for me than matters I'd been dealing with earlier. Whatever it is, I occasionally feel mentally overwhelmed. I don't like that. My memory slips seem worse and more frequent than before. I simply cannot recall information that I used to be able to access in my mind. And it's not like it will come to me later. It's information that used to be there but is now just gone and I can feel that it's gone and not coming back. It's not on the tip of my tongue. I expect that everyone reading this is thinking to themselves, "I know what you mean! My memory is getting worse, too! This getting old is a bummer!". But no, it's not like that. I know that part. That's how I felt BEFORE I had cancer treatments. This feels quite different and worse. It impacts me in so many ways but I notice it especially at work and more lately than before. If someone asks me a question about something I should know, I'm sometimes at a total loss and the only way to answer the question is to find some documentation. Sometimes I find it overwhelming and often embarrassing, though my colleagues are so good about it. And sometimes when I think I remember, I don't trust the accuracy of my memory. I worry that what I'm remembering is muddled with something else. I've done that a few times in a way I didn't use to do and now I'm less trusting of myself. Sometimes, at lunch or coffee, I'll feel I have something to contribute to the conversation but then I don't say anything because I can't remember some key details and without those, my story would be kind of pointless.

Numbers are especially challenging for me. Even now when I know my memory isn't very good, I'm still shocked by my loss of information I had repeated to myself over and over again so as to retain it. For instance, I had a nice, long conversation with Berny last Saturday. It's great to have someone to share a lot of information back and forth with, though I sincerely wish these weren't the circumstances that brought us together as friends. Anyway, Berny and I have arranged to meet with another friend for lunch. We chose a date when Berny is in town and I repeated it in my head many times over the next couple of days. I kept forgetting to write it on the calendar and when I did think about doing that, I wasn't in a position to do so. At any rate, I had made a special effort to commit that date to memory and trusted that I had. But no. It's gone. I have to email Berny and ask her again. That's so disheartening. It's not a matter of just forgetting a date. Many people do that now and then but after the effort I put in to securing it in my memory and to still lose it, I find alarming. My memory was managing better than this a while ago. I'm very nervous about this.

My understanding was that my cognition and memory should improve considerably about a year after chemo. But recent studies are showing that Tamoxifen can cause the same or similar problems as chemo on the old grey matter. (Cancer Treatments and Brains Study and Chemo Brain Study and Tamoxifen and Brains) Is the Tamoxifen kicking into overdrive in my brain? Is there a cumulative or latent effect? I wonder. Something in my brain just feels more wrong that it did before and I don't much like it. I'll be paying close attention over the next little while ... looking for signs of improvement. Hoping for signs of improvement. I see in this study, that my brain should recover a bit after I'm off Tamoxifen for a year ... of course that's not until another 5+ years down the road and it's my understanding that I can expect my cognitive abilities and memory to get worse yet while on Tamoxifen. It probably doesn't help adding the effects of Tamoxifen on top of the chemo brain. I hate this shit. Let me say that all that thinking that I'd get back to life as I knew it AFTER I was done with cancer treatments was SO NAIVE! But, as I remind myself ... at least I'm alive. At least my joints are slowly improving. At least I'm growing some hair, such as it is (blick!). At least I could walk with my pals on Sunday. Thank God for family and friends.

Today I would just like to be a mushroom ... parked like a little shelf on our birch stump. This mushroom is crowing like a sty on the eye of the chunk of trunk I'm most attached to. This is the piece that used to be face high on the tree and was the "eye" that looked over our family, guarding and protecting us. I kept is as a plant stand for our deck.


1 comment:

  1. It's Oct 13 - I know because I just checked the calendar. Actually I don't have so much of the chemo brain anymore just the odd time I have to stop in the middle of a conversation because I can't remember a word or I even forget what I was talking about! (that's very embarrassing!) I didn't even realize that Tamoxifen is supposed to make me stupid. I don't really notice any side effects from it and I hope that doesn't mean I will have the bad long term ones. Loved your story about the fat cells!


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