“I suffer from short-term memory loss. It runs in my family... At least I think it does... hmmm. Where are they?” -Dory, Finding Nemo
Dory, are you my spirit animal?
I forget everything too! I’d forget my own birthday if I didn’t have to write it down all the time. In Finding Nemo
, Dory fumbles to find the right words. She forgets where she’s going, she introduces herself multiple times, and she remembers things incorrectly. Me. All me. (Except I don’t speak whale.)
When your great aunt forgets your birthday, it’s not a big deal because degenerative memory loss is common when you’re 80. I’m 32, so when I do these things, people just think I’m an idiot. We refer to this forgetfulness and fog as “chemo brain” in the cancer community. Chemo brain is the term used to describe cognitive impairment as a result of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation and mental stress. I know that I’m an intelligent person. I’ve made it this far in life without trying crack, or wiring all my money to a fake Nigerian prince in an Internet scam. But, sometimes I do feel pretty dumb because of chemo brain.
Chemo brain is not something most cancer doctors will prepare you for. Some will even dispel it as a myth. I know that before chemo, I wouldn’t have driven to the wrong airport and missed my flight. I wouldn’t have gone to the grocery store for eggs, and come home with a birthday cake and a spicy rotisserie chicken. I forgot the eggs, and then spent 20 minutes trying to remember where I parked my car.
Although it has been 15 months since chemo, the emotional and physical wreckage is still all around me. But I am rebuilding. When I think back to the first few months of my cancer diagno