From Senior Moments to Cancer Brain

As young mothers, when the constant company of babies and toddlers and the endless chores associated with bringing up a young family, and when things start to go slightly awry, it’s often attributed to ‘Baby Brain’.

At my age when I start forgetting people’s names or where I put things, Baby Brain becomes a “Senior Moment’.  Now that I have that dreaded diagnosis of Cancer, I think my senior moments are metamorphosing in to periods of Cancer Brain.  I know I’m doing things that are just not me, but I feel almost powerless to change the particular chain of events I’m caught up in at a given time. And I know I would have behaved completely differently had I been faced with similar situations prior to diagnosis.

One of the comments made during my early morning Facebook chat with my friend in USA about her sister bursting into tears at her inability to do up a bra strap made me think twice. I know that at present, and before my diagnosis I can be irritable about not being able to find the right hook behind my back even without the extra bother of an incision and stitches in a wound under my arm to contend with.  Forewarned is forearmed, I thought, so I set off to Masterton to purchase a front closing bra without underwiring, to tide me over the recovery period after surgery.

I thought I could be strong, walk into the Lingerie shop, and tell the shop assistant I had been recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer and did they have a bra suitable for recovery after surgery.  I might add that this particular store is on the Cancer Society list of recommended stockists of specialist lingerie for women with breast cancer.  Well I walked into the lingerie shop, but then the strength I thought I had mustered together completely deserted me and I was in tears before I had even uttered my first sentence. Cheryl, the shop assistant was absolutely lovely.  I’m sure she probably has a few idiots like me walking through her door on a moderately regular basis, and tissues were quickly produced along with hugs.  Then she told me she completely understood as she has been in my shoes just last year.  She had had breast cancer, radiotherapy and even chemotherapy as she had another medical condition which complicated the choice of drugs for her treatment. And there she was looking lovely and able to relate her tale with complete equanimity a year or so later.  We chatted some more and she persuaded me that I should make contact with the people at the local Cancer Society, particularly the nurse.  So with my purchase made I went back to my car and tried to follow her directions to the Cancer Society.

I eventually found the Cancer Society premises at the end of a short lane of purpose built office units occupied by various businesses.  The Cancer Society Offices occupied an L shaped formation right at the far end from the street entrance. I parked the car and walked towards an office labelled ‘Information and Support’ or something similar.  The other one was labelled ‘Office’, and with the two separate labels I thought perhaps one shouldn’t be bothering the office people and that the Information and support one was definitely where I should be going. But the door was closed, as in locked with no one visible behind the glass façade. If my normal presence of mind had been with me I would have just gone and knocked on the door of the Office.  But I didn’t.  The tears welled up and flowed again.  I couldn’t even move myself to go back to the car.  I just stood in front of the door reading and re-reading an out of date poster with all of their programmes for 2012 listed on it.  The slightly logical part of my mind thought that at mid November perhaps a 2013 list of events should have been promulgated by now.  But all I could do was walk up and down past that closed door.  I don’t know now, whether it was fear, shame, shyness, all of the above or more factors that I can’t even recall now, just a few days later, but I was rooted to the spot, well almost, and felt powerless to go anywhere else, even back to my car and down the driveway again.    What was I thinking?  I don’t know.  Was I even thinking?  Cancer brain, I can’t remember anything but being unable to move away from that door.  Eventually someone from the office saw me and opened the ‘Office” door and invited me in.  Even then I was still rooted to the spot.

I don’t know what eventually made me move but I did.  The lady gave me a glass of water while I explained why I was there.  She was savvy enough to realise that I already had information overload and just gave a bare minimum one slip of paper an the card of the nurse I had supposed would have been behind that closed door.  And after I had, again, regained a modicum of equilibrium again I drove home.

I look back now, only days later, and can’t imagine myself being so stupid and acting so illogically and I can only put it down to the inner turmoil that I attribute to Cancer Brain.

One thought on “From Senior Moments to Cancer Brain

  1. You are completely entitled to react however comes to you at the time. Don’t beat yourself up about acting irrationally and in an incomprehensible way. What you are being forced to deal with is totally irrational and incomprehensibly and the more honestly you deal with it, the better will be the healing from it. We are here for you. Keep writing.

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