Diem Brown Shares How Her Chemo-Brain Sends Her to Dumb-Dumbville
I have always been a list girl: Things I need to accomplish by a certain age; places I want to visit within five years; must-haves for my fall wardrobe. I actually have lists of my lists!
I have always believed that by writing your hopes, dreams and your daily errands down, the lists become achievable. I guess it's that whole The Secret thang Oprah talked about, but basically for me, lists equal getting things done and moving forward.
At this moment in my life, I HAVE to make lists just to keep my head on straight! Any patient will tell you: Just because you're ill, the world doesn't slow down. If anything your world becomes more cluttered and overwhelming.
Admittedly I have slacked on certain areas in my life, like getting back to people in a timely manor, daily errands, bills – even my work has taken a hit. But making a list helps me map out how to get back on track.
I mentioned feeling overwhelmed and having to make a list to keep your head on straight, well this is why …
You have heard of "pregnancy brain"? Well, I imagine "chemo brain" works the same way. I feel like my head is so clouded that seemingly simple tasks take SO much effort to accomplish.
Returning an item to a store but leaving your receipt at home. Frantically searching for your keys only to find them right in front of your face . Walking out the front door, forgetting the keys you just found and locking yourself out.
Oh, and my favorite: missing your flight home for Thanksgiving because you told the cab diver the wrong airport (JFK not LGA) so you book a last-minute train home to D.C. Then, when your train arrives at your destination, you leave your purse on the train!
Yep that pretty much sums up my Thanksgiving travel day from hell. I had chemo on the Monday before Thanksgiving so traveling on Wednesday felt like my world was crashing over me. The train from N.Y.C. to Washington D.C. was completely FULL, yet I looked so green in the face no one sat next to me. I had to laugh a lil inside because I don't think I would have sat next to me either ... I looked like a ticking time bomb!
When the train arrived in D.C. I gathered my items and headed outside, thankful to see a street vender selling watermelon (my go-to post chemo food). I reached for my wallet and BOOM! You know that moment when you realized you've misplaced something? Your mind instantly paints the picture of exactly where the item is.
Mentally retracing my steps leaving the train, I remembered grabbing my jacket, getting my suitcase down from over head, packing up my Tina Fey Bossy Pants book and errr ... the seat back pocket! DAMN! How did I forget to check the seat back pocket?!
A vivid image of my sad lonely purse on an empty train makes my mind race of what's inside my purse. My ID, my credit cards, my apartment keys, checks I haven't cashed and MY MEDS.
Damn damn damn … now you start making a NEW list while realizing how much money and time your absent mind will cost you. Okay, I have to cancel my credit cards, see if I can remember who the checks in my wallet were from and ask them to stop payment, get my sister's apartment key to make a copy, try to find a doctor that's working on Thanksgiving to write me a new prescription, oh, and my ID! I also have to make a DMV appointment. Great, just great.
The floodgates have opened and tears start trailing down your face. Stressed out, overwhelmed and soooo annoyed that your mind isn't working as it should. This, my friends, is an example of chemo brain!
I called my sister crying, asking her to pick me up as I had no cash or credit cards for a cab home to my dad's house in Virginia. I was being overly emotional over a lost purse so my sister tried to talk me down saying each of the items are replaceable and that it was so clear to her my emotions were from my recent chemo treatment.
I have had so many of these "chemo brain" moments they really do start to make you feel crazy! Like there is a tiny mischievous elf inside your head playing hide and seek with things you should remember. No one really talks about "chemo brain" but it is soooo real. Now I have so much compassion for women dealing with pregnancy brain!
My sister keeps telling me to not be so hard on myself, that chemo is powerful and I'm more or less doped up 24/7. I hear my sisters words and realize my only way to fight this mischievous lil "chemo brain"-inducing self is to take a deep breath and continue making my lists!
This Week's List
1. Don't be so hard on yourself for chemo brain, Dopey, and make that N.Y.C. DMV appointment!
Ahhh, much better. If any of you have any chemo brain, pregnancy brain or just plain dodo brain stories I'd love to hear them. I think sharing our crazy moments makes us all feel way better and a heck of a lot less crazy! :)
Check back for updates every Thursday: Diem will be chronicling exclusively for PEOPLE.com her journey through fertility treatments, chemotherapy and her quest to educate others about ovarian health. You can also follow her on Twitter @DiemBrown.