AnneMarie Ciccarella blogs about her adventures at www.chemo-brain.blogspot.com and can be found on twitter @chemobrainfog. She is still fine-tuning her direction and until that has been established, her bio simply reads, “Cancer rebel, irreverent blogger, wisecracking dim-twit.”
When I started to learn about all of this chemo brain stuff, I began to hear certain catch phrases. One of my favorites? “Work-around solution.” A work-around solution is a way out of a jam that wasn’t the intended way, may not provide the exact results you wanted, but it is sufficient. Or, more accurately, you either let it be sufficient, or you continue on the path of I AM DETERMINED TO GET THIS EXACTLY THE WAY I WANTED.
Well, guess what? There is one choice and only one choice: just go with it already. Uphill battle and your brain is not giving in. Laugh. I’ve learned that my rigid and structured ways just have no place in AD time. (Footnote: AD is my way of referring to the period after active treatment. I decided to adapt the BC:AD calendar to refer to the way cancer has divided my life. If anyone would like to toss out suggestions, I am still playing with what those letters mean…“Another Distraction”…“A(new) Direction”… nothing has really grabbed me yet….. )
BRAIN: Come back…. Now, for those who never stood at a bar trying to remember that you like tonic with vodka, allow me to elaborate. You know when you are talking and you hit a brick wall. How many times have you stood in frustration saying aloud, “It’s on the tip of my tongue.” And then, whether it was a word or a movie or the name of a person, you know it’s going to drive you crazy until it comes to you. Sometimes, it will pop into your head.
You may begin to do some free association: “You know the movie, it starred Robert DeNiro and he was the father with the little kid who grows up… the kid, you know, the kid who was arrested a few years back in real life… oh, this is gonna drive me crazy, it’s on the tip of my tongue!”
If you are lucky, that will have been enough to either bring the title into your head or, if you happen to be talking to one of my kids, they will provide the title in a split second. Sometimes, it’s something that you may not figure out and it WILL drive you crazy. Back in the day, the choices were:
• Stop thinking about it and it will come to you (may or may NOT actually happen)
• Give up and have it pop into your head at the most random moment.
Today, there is an option “C,” which is my personal favorite: The Internet Scavenger Hunt. Let me see how many combinations of words I have to Google before I have the information. I’ve come to accept this OCD component that seems to be part of my particular case of chemo brain so I will always go with Option C. Maybe you do, too.
Or maybe one of my kids already helped out so this particular “tip of the tongue” episode passed without really being an episode at all. Or, if you were not quite that fortunate, you might be driving along, sometimes DAYS later and just blurt out the word or title. (Or, you may actually forget the whole conversation and have to apologize to someone for insisting they were crazy, just thought I’d throw that out there….) We’ve all done it. I know you can relate. I can SEE you nodding your heads.
That is the “it’s-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue dilemma” which is different from word dropping and if you don’t belong to the club, and I hope you never do, word dropping is exclusive to those who reside either in the fog of active treatment or are already in the AD portion of the journey. And, to clarify further, word dropping isn’t a distant relative of name dropping, and btw, I don’t like those people, the name droppers, I mean.
Word dropping is when the normal everyday word is right there, yes, on the tip of my tongue. I’ll fight for it to catch the train that will transport it from my brain to my tongue. Ok, take a breath. Not today? Time to implement my new skill and most importantly, to laugh at myself in the process.
What occurs next -- and this is in no particular order – I will either define the word or find a less suitable word. If I define the word, this could come off somewhat smart-assy if my definition sounds identical to the entry one might find in Merriam-Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (and yes, for the record, there is a copy on my desk, circa 1980). Sometimes, just like the old cliché about books and movies, the book IS better (than the internet). I may attempt to explain the word, a dangerous venture which holds a high degree of probability and I will be completely off topic within the first minute as I have now ventured into the world of What The Hell Was I Saying?
Alternatively, I will find a less suitable word which always pisses me off because for whatever reason, I DO know the substitute word is missing some small subtle something. (Gee, wonder if subtle and substitute have some connected root word prefix thing going on… going to check on that RIGHT NOW). Having CB OCD, that little nuance is of utmost importance because it does capture EXACTLY the essence of whatever I wanted to convey. When all else fails, I’ll blurt out an SAT word which invariably tends to piss off the person with whom I am speaking. I know they are thinking, "Seriously? Smart ass..," It’s written all over their face and besides, I do read minds. It's a curse.
Example? I was in the car with my daughter a few months ago and we were driving through some rural areas when a truck caught my eye. Why this was even a topic of conversation, who knows… maybe it was painted a pretty color or maybe we were both punch drunk from being in the car too long. Maybe you just can’t expect the city mouse to drive through cow country even if the city mouse is really living the suburban life. Could it have been I just grabbed the bottle of water beside me? No clue and I am SO DONE trying to figure out how these thoughts just zigzag in my brain. The point is, the truck resembled a concrete truck but it contained water.
Because I carry an enormous amount of useless information in my head, I knew this. And, I proceed to say something along the lines of, “The truck is transporting potable water.” HUH? WTF? Where did that come from?? Couldn’t you just say “drinking water?” What, you need to show off your vocabulary? But, I didn’t need to do anything… the word “drinking” or any form of it was simply not there. Potable was. I solved the problem by substituting a word.
That’s a work-around solution, meaning, not really a solution. It’s nothing more than a band-aid. There is a difference between “It’s on the tip of my tongue” and “word dropping.” I know, I do both. Not only can I can feel the difference, I will readily and gladly admit when it’s NOT a CB thing.
Why do I know? I haven’t a clue. But why must you ask??? The only answer I can offer is this. Perhaps you have great teeth or have been exceptionally lucky or were positively vigilant with your dental appointments?? I, however have a toothache.***
***Note: I am well aware this ending makes no sense unless you happened upon a blurb I wrote about attempting to explain the pain of a toothache to someone who has never actually experienced a toothache. It can’t be done. Similarly, it’s not possible to fully understand chemo brain despite how wonderfully it is explained. Some things you simply must experience on your own to get the full flavor!
Oh…. the movie? Did you think I would leave you hanging??? It’s “A Bronx Tale,” and the actor Lillo Brancato played the part of Robert DeNiro’s son, Calogero, just in case that was right on the tip of your tongue. Should you have any further entertainment questions, IMDB is a great source, or just start Googling words in any and all combos.
When Idelle and I first communicated a couple of months ago, I jokingly told her I owned a copy of her book and I’m sure it was one of the first ones off the printing press. As I began to think about what I might want to share on Idelle’s blog, I remembered that conversation. One of the most fabulous things I deal with regularly is a newer issue for me. I have a touch of OCD that seems to kick in all the time: The Details Matter.
With this in mind, it was ESSENTIAL for me to check Amazon because yes, the minutiae is far more important than the big picture. Thankfully, the good folks at Amazon have their act together and their diligence saved me countless hours of poring over credit card statements to locate the purchase.
At the very top of the page, I was informed, “You purchased this book on August 9, 2009.” I scanned the page for the publication date. July 14th. Idelle’s book was in my possession before there was a paperback or a Kindle edition. I will be sending my copy to Idelle for author signatures. It’s bound to be on par with Dickens. Yes, unintended but still, yes, a pun on “bound, “ and YES, seriously. The book is as important to “chemo brain” as is Dickens in the realm of great fiction.
Heartfelt thanks to Idelle for letting me be the court jester for a day and sharing some of my silliness on her blog! -- AnneMarie