Category Archives: chemo-brain

Post-Cancer-Cure Blues

It’s now quite a few weeks since I was told that my cancer had been defeated and that I am now clean and the intense sense of elation continued for quite a while being supported by such amazing events as my eyebrows and eyelashes growing back so that my face started to look something like it had done before the chemo, being able to climb the stairs without having to pause or take them one step at a time, being able to go out and have meal and so on, but, by the end of last week and through the middle of this, that feeling of elation had disappeared and the best that could be said of how I was feeling was “flat”: a more honest self-appraisal would probably have been “down”, not depressed but very definitely down. There was no particular reason for this, nothing had gone wrong, I was and am still very grateful to be alive, but I definitely felt a bit down and a little stressed. As I said, I don’t really know why, perhaps because I had been up for so long, perhaps because others think I am now fully functional and back to normal all the time whereas I know that isn’t the case and trying to be that way all the time creates its own stresses. Perhaps I was like that because I’d simply done too much physically exercising on the Wii most days and doing house-work to boot on occasion, and this activity had left me drained.

Whatever the cause things began to change yesterday (Thursday) when I went to take my written and practical Florida driving tests. Now, I’d worked pretty hard on learning the Florida Drivers Manual. I’d learned enough to answer pretty much every test question correctly every time and felt really confident, but that was on Monday. When I woke up on Tuesday I felt as though chemo-brain had returned. I found it hard to read and almost impossible to concentrate. By Wednesday things were worse and numbers that I had been sure of had started to slip. By Thursday morning the numbers were all over the place. I had to return to my own lane after overtaking a vehicle before I came within how many feet of an oncoming vehicle? How wide does the median have to be before I don’t have to stop when a school bus stops on the other side of the road? Was the answer to the first of these 5′ and the answer to the second 200′ or was it the other way round? Blood alcohol levels were something I’d have liked to experiment with as I couldn’t remember any of the legal percentages and neither could I remember the length of a potential prison sentence, the number of points accrued, whether a licence would be revoked or suspended or what the size of the fine might be. When it came to littering I knew 15 lbs to be a significant number, but not why it was significant. I tell you, things really were that bad! Things got worse when I sat at the computer at the test center and discovered that the previous candidate had failed their test – I knew this because they’d not bothered to press enter and move on to next screen. Thanks mate! Great boost for my morale was that potential omen. Anyway, I answered the questions to the best of my ability, cursing my “chemo-brain” for forgetting some answers that I’d known only a couple of days previously and being amazed that the answers to others popped into my head from nowhere at all. I didn’t get them all correct but, eventually,  a box popped up on the screen telling me that I had passed. Wow!! I was excited, amazed and relieved, and went to ask the relevant officer what happened next. I was told to take a seat and I’d be called in a few minutes. It didn’t take even a few minutes before I was called back to be told that I hadn’t actually finished the test as there were a further twenty questions. I told you I had something akin to chemo-brain. You can possibly guess how red my face was at this point. If you can’t then just think of the color of a STOP light. Anyway I passed the second section as well as the first and eventually took and passed the practical driving test. This very small success had a hugely disproportionate effect on my morale. I knew I still had something like chemo-brain but I suddenly felt not only relieved but more self-confident because after some nine months of chemo battering and recovery I had finally achieved something by myself. After not driving for over a year I was suddenly back behind the wheel of a car and it felt GOOD!

Today I joined a group of students and staff from the school at which my wife works for a sea kayaking session. It was so much fun to be standing waist deep in warm sea water watching other people go through capsize and re-entry drills. A world away from when I first started kayaking in the cold Easter-time waters of a reservoir in the Pennines using closed cockpit white water kayaks. Would I have swapped the experiences – no, not at all but I am really glad that I’ve lived long enough to enjoy both and I plan to continue to do so! So, thanks Laura and company for a really fun session!

The end to pretty much a perfect day was pizza on Hollywood Beach with my wife as the sun set. Thanks Joanne.

Do I have the post-cancer-cure blues now? No, of course not!

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Filed under Cancer, chemo, chemo-brain, chemotherapy, Hodgkins Lymphoma, Kayaking