Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Before I forget...dealing with Chemo Brain

I woke up this morning feverishly trying to remember what I had to do, before I got out of bed to see what I had written down.  Mix that with my new ritual of morning nausea (yep...every morning) and its quite a show, I'm sure.

The nurses and doctors refer to it cutely as Chemo Brain.  Its a cognitive disorder that can occur after chemo...forgetfulness, memory loss, brain damage...however you want to spin it, it sucks. 

A few weeks ago, I got lost going home from an area that I shouldn't have.  Plus, I'm a realtor (well, before cancer), so I really know my way around the area.  I was on a main road about twenty minutes from my house.  I literally had to stay on that main road and turn left on another road to get to my subdivision.  Somewhere, I messed up and ended up in another town far, far away before I realized it.  I didn't know where I turned, what I did, I was just driving and there we go...I either lost track of what I was doing, forgot I was going home, or forgot my way.  You see, I can't even tell you what caused me to end up in another town... I can't remember and it just happened.  That's the best way I can describe it, it just happened

Chemo Brain is very serious.  One of my nurses told me it could take a couple years to regain what I have lost, but since I am younger, I have a better shot of getting it back.  Getting back my brain!!!  Its crazy to know that I am stupid, but I am alive. 

To keep active and exercise my brain and cognitive functions, I have been working on puzzles, jigsaw and crossword, Sudoku, crocheting, working on organizing my paperwork and coupons, watching wheel of fortune, and trying to watch more informative shows.  Reading, baking, anything that makes me think.  Everyone I talk to agrees that those things help.  However, its incredibly frustrating (for me and those I piss off from asking the same question 20 times). 

So, until my mind is better than it was, I won't be happy.  I lose track of time constantly, and I know its partly because of the chemo brain.  I get up and the next thing I know is the day has gone by...its 5 pm and time to start dinner.  It sucks.  But I am alive.  Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful to be alive.  I just want my mind back, too.  That reminds me, I need to go to the university and talk to my professor, to see about going back to school once I get my mind back into action.   I had to take a medical leave when I was diagnosed.  Would be nice to get back, but I don't want to jump back too soon.

Have you experienced this?  Do you have a story to tell or ideas on how to keep your mind active?  Please share!!

Have a great day,

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I have two pharmacies I frequent nowadays.  The pharmacy at my hospital, and then the Walgreens right by my house.  In fact, I know both pharmacists pretty well.  You should get to know your pharmacist, too. 

My pharmacist at Walgreens saw me a few times a week most of the summer.  I was getting chemo treatments M-F, everyday, and depending on how I felt or what I needed, I was in there.  Sometimes I needed potassium pills, sometimes I needed more tape to cover my catheter when I showered, sometimes, I just needed to walk around and buy a candy bar before heading to chemo.  Whatever it was, they saw me pretty often. Still do, in fact.  I go there weekly...even just for candy if I am in the mood.
My pharmacist at Walgreens asked me one day what type of cancer I had.  I told him, APL, which is a subtype of AML, he told me his wife was battling AML, too.  He has become a rock for me, whether he knows it or not.  He always asks how I am doing, which is nice.  We have shared stories of some drugs that his wife and I have both taken (and their super gross side effects).  I have gained a trust for him over the course of this year, and I depend on his opinion and expertise.
Get to know your pharmacist.  Even if you get some drugs at one place and some drugs at another (like I do), bring all the meds in and let them have a record of what you are taking, so they can let you know of interactions or side effects.  Even though I am in remission, I take lots of pills...multiple times a day.  I will for this next year, and I need to worry every time someone prescribes me an antibiotic or any other med for that matter.  I need to know this won't cause an issue with my methotrexate or my tretinoin or anything else I take.  The pharmacist can help you with this.  To me, my pharmacist feels like extra insurance.  He sees what I am taking and can tell me if its ok to take all these meds together or not.  He can also let me know what side effects I can expect, and maybe hints about taking the meds (with food, before bed, without food, etc).  The pharmacist is there for you.  Take advantage of him/her... let them help you!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Must Have for Cancer Patients: Baby Wipes

You might think I am crazy, but trust me, as a cancer patient, wipes are a must.
Cancer patients are treated with tons of different meds.  These medications can all interact with your digestive system in different ways.  A 'normal' bowel movement quickly becomes a thing of the past.  Might sound gross, but this is easy talk for most cancer patients.  Due to our immune systems, chemotherapy, and everything else, the last thing the doctors and nurses want us to do is strain ourselves when we go to the bathroom.  They also want us to (obviously) keep clean.  Baby wipes work for moms cleaning babies, and they work for cancer patients who need a little help. 

If you experience hemorrhoids, ask your doctor about medication or medicated pads and wipes.  When I am noticing a little blood, I am most scared about infection of the area that is bleeding.  Wipes help this better than toilet paper.  I rarely even use toilet paper anymore.  Of course, I just started maintenance therapy, and those medications make me go a lot and often.  Just don't flush them! 
I prefer the thick unscented wipes.  Walgreens makes a store brand wipe that is wonderful.  The thick ones are worth it as an adult, too!