Sunday, November 1, 2009

Driving, Spatial Orientation (From JBF)

I just finished your book "Your Brain after Chemo".  It was very good.  Thank you for writing it!

Chemo brain was HARD to deal with.  My observations now that I am 5 months out:

1. Driving:  I should not have been driving.  I never had an accident... but I came close too often.  See the next item for more details.

2. Spatial orientation:
I pride myself on being very aware of my surroundings, and my "place in space".  As an example of the problem:  I was driving to a chemo appointment - had done the trip many times - and was totally confused about which exit to take.  Fortunately my daughter was with me and provided the directions.  Very unnerving.  Needless to say, she drove home!!!

I prefer to back into parking spots - it was almost impossible for me to do while on chemo.  Figuring out where the cars (and other obstacles) were was terrible.  I am not sure how to describe it - it is like my brain kept flipping the things I was looking at.

I study T'ai Chi.  Prior to surgery and chemo I was learning a form and practicing regularly.  After surgery, but prior to chemo I practiced Tai Chi - it felt good and helped open up my chest.  During chemo I found it challenging - but still practiced.  The challenge... recognizing my body and its position in space.  After chemo, when I joined class again I was very frustrated.  I could not translate what I saw the teacher doing to the movement I needed to do.

3. Organization & Decision Making:  I am usually very organized and can make a plan, layout the data and make a decision based on that.  I could NOT do this while on chemo.  I planned a simple conversion and needed to buy a cabinet as part of the plan.  I had the numbers for three cabinets all laid out in front of me... and I could not figure out what to do.  I finally gave up.  And this was a simple plan, but it took me almost a month to come up with... Normally this type of plan would have taken an hour at the most.

4. Alzheimer's-like symptoms:  A friend's husband has developed Alzheimer's.   I went to the National Alzheimer's website to learn more.  I took their little quiz - I felt like I was the "poster child" for it!

5. Dyslexia:  I am dyslexic.  This became extremely exacerbated during treatment.  I have developed many coping skills during my life to deal with this challenge... lets just say, "this was a train wreck" while on chemo.
Is it chemo or is it menopause?  I wonder... Hard to know and to say for sure.  And let's throw in stress for good measure!  Oh yes, and a history of depression.  Fortunately that was well under control for this life experience.

As the chemo moves out the problems are clearing up.  I am painfully aware that this process is going to take longer than I had imagined!  I am thankful for all the little improvements.  I try to not focus on it, after all, "what you focus on expands..." but chemo brain is there, and for me, that is a fact.

Again, thanks for your book!

JBF, Pittsburgh, PA
Lung Cancer Survivor

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