Seven Signs You May Suffer From *Chemo Brain by Proxy

chemo-brain by proxy

I stood in the middle of the kitchen, a measuring cup in one hand and a carton of eggs in the other.  What was I doing?

Oh, yeah.  Cleaning the bathroom.

I looked at the items in my hands and shrugged before setting them down on the open oven door.  Silly me.  I had come into the kitchen for a rag!  I grabbed a rag and some cleaner from under the sink and laughed—must be Chemo Brain by Proxy again.

Funny, how I’d never had a chemotherapy treatment in my life, but somehow, I’d seemed to acquire the same forgetfulness that robbed Pedro of his intent and memory during his treatment.  Of course, he seemed to be over his chemo brain already….

“Anita!” someone called from across the church lobby.  I turned with dread.  I recognized the voice, but I couldn’t think of a name to go with it.  Maybe seeing her face would help….nope. “I was wondering if you got my message?”

“Uh, no.”  For the life of me, I couldn’t remember getting a message from any one.

“I called your work phone,” the mystery woman replied, “and left a message in your voice mail.”

“Oh, that explains it!”  I laughed nervously.  “The school put in a new phone system, and I don’t know my password yet.  How can I help you?”

“I wondered if I could set up a conference with you about Joel.  He seems to be struggling in English.”

Joel.  He wasn’t the only one struggling.  At least I know who was talking to me now!  “How does Monday afternoon sound, Mrs. Grant?”  Whew!  I’d remembered her name!  I set the appointment for just a few minutes after my last class ended.  I wouldn’t miss or forget the appointment…hopefully.

My phone vibrated in my pocket, and I fumbled to pull it out—it was Pedro.  I wonder what he wanted?

“Are you on your way?”

I hated questions like this…where was I supposed to be and why should I be on my way there?  “Um, no.  I’m still at school.”  Maybe I could figure it out without admitting my ignorance.

“Seriously?! You’re still there?”

“Yeah.”  I wondered if my voice sounded as defeated as I felt. Chemo Brain by Proxy strikes again.

“Just kidding.” Pedro’s voice sounded far away.  “I just missed you and wondered when you’d be home from work today.”

I felt a hard ball of rage burning deep within me.  Didn’t he know how hard it was for me to keep things straight?!  How could he tease me like this?  I took a deep breath and managed a hoarse, “Ha, ha, ha!” into the phone before  I said my goodbye and ended the call.

It seemed as if the effects of chemo were wearing off Pedro and wearing on to me.   And that ball of rage?  Where did that come from?  How long had it simmered and grown until it lurked at the surface, ready to spew out of me over a simple joke?

They say remission cures chemo brain.  What cures *Chemo Brain by Proxy?

#Caregiver, here are 7 signs you may suffer from #chemobrain by proxy. Get help! Click To Tweet

Seven Signs You May be Suffering:

  1. You often find yourself wondering what you are doing.
  2. Inability to get out of bed in the morning/or inability to sleep
  3. Feelings of moving through a fog.
  4. Inability to concentrate/restlessness
  5. Anxiety/Irritability/unexplained rage
  6. Weight gain/weight loss/fatigue
  7. Experiencing physical responses to reminders of your loved one’s illness (increased heart rate, sweating, tears.

As caregivers or someone who loves a cancer patient, we’ve all heard about chemo brain—that mysterious Swiss-cheese effect that happens to a cancer patient’s brain whilst under the influence of powerful chemo drugs.  If you’re experiencing some of all of these symptoms, I strongly advise that you make an appointment with a counselor, a psychiatrist or your family physician.

*Chemo Brain by Proxy is a term I coined to describe a chemo-brain like experience in a caregiver (I suffered from many of these).

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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