Checking my last blog post, it appears that the last time I wrote was nearly two months ago. Where does the time go? I’ll tell you where. It’s been lost in the swirling, foggy mists of my chemo brain. Before I began chemotherapy last November, I read up as much as I could on the nastiness I was about to experience. I wanted to be prepared, but nothing really can prepare you for the experience. First, while some side effects are probably universal for each drug, each person will experience it a little differently. For example, I heard a lot about women on chemo craving sweets. Well, sweet things have become the last thing I want because those tastebuds are the most damaged. Don’t misunderstand me, my brain still craves desserts and sweets, but experience has taught me that it’s not worth the trouble. Similarly, I read about Chemo Brain, but I didn’t fully understand it until it happened.
My experience with this particular side effect has included a lack of focus in all activities; the days passing in a sleepy blur; and a complete loss of motivation to create anything. My sole goal on most days has been to take naps, frequently. Such a peaceful way to suffer.
I asked my oncologist (gee, I never thought “my oncologist” would ever spill out of my keyboard) what caused chemo brain, and was it even a real thing. Maybe I was just being melodramatic? As you can see, I’m still as tough on myself as before, at least when my eyes are open. My oncologist’s response was that it is a real thing, it may take a year to go away (seriously?!), and that doctors think it’s caused by a combination of fatigue and anxiety. In an effort to reassure me, he said that doctors haven’t found any visible damage to the brain from chemo treatments. How about invisible, doc?
The good news is that I had my last chemotherapy treatment last month (I’m still receiving infusions of the targeted biologic drug, Herceptin, through November), and I hope we can start the clock on that year now. I’m also trying a few approaches to clear out some of the fog in my brain and regain both my focus and creativity.
First, on my doctor’s recommendation, I’ve taken up exercising my brain by downloading the app Lumosity on my phone and training with those games as many days as I remember. Ahem, that means not daily at this point, even though the games are fun and I feel like the brain cells get a workout.
I have also taken up a creative challenge to motivate me to do something, just a little something daily, to bring back my creativity. There’s a worldwide challenge that started today called #The100DayProject. During this project, creatives from around the world commit to doing a little something creative every day for 100 days, and sharing it on Instagram. It can take any form from photography to painting, from writing to dancing, knitting to cooking, or anything your creative heart desires. Last year I participated by working on learning to draw food (no surprise there, right?) and calling it #100DaysofDelicious. It was fun, although toward the end it became challenging as I ran out of ideas for subjects. This year I wasn’t so sure if I could commit to doing something every day, but I decided that it would be a good way to attempt to jump start my creativity, in spite of Chemo Brain.
I spent a few days thinking about a subject for my project, and decided that a little flexibility might be a good thing, given my current lethargy and limitations. I wanted something that could be executed in a variety of mediums, or with minimal effort on a bad day, because I don’t need to beat myself up at this point for failing to meet my goals. Actually, I really never need a reason to beat myself up, do I? But under present circumstances I’m attempting a little self-kindness.
Therefore, drumroll please, this year my project is called #100daysofdonnasfavoritewords. I’ve always been interested in language as a former English and Latin double major in college. On some days I will post a word with an appropriate illustration, on other days I may use a photo, and on my toughest days you may just see the word with a small caption explaining the reason for my choice. Words will be selected for many reasons which might be their intrinsic meaning, the way they sound, the way they feel tripping off the tongue, or some memory they evoke. Again, I’ve given myself a lot of flexibility with this challenge. If you’re interested in following along, visit my Instagram page.
If I miss a few days, please forgive me. There’s my next step, surgery, coming up within the next month, and I don’t know how that will limit my efforts. In the meantime, I hope this project will help me to get past… uh, what were we talking about in this post?