Saturday, 14 April 2012
IN-BETWEEN THOUGHT AND ACTION, ACTION AND REACTION
“There will be fatigue – usually that’s what most people complain of most. You’ll lose your hair & your skin may become burnt and sensitive. There will be a slight loss of cognition – you’ll just think a little slower and usually the memory gets a little worse. You’ll notice, maybe close friends will – but it’s usually slight.”
It’s my first consultation with The Dave and he’s referring to whole brain radiation (WBR). I take this in without agreeing to it or refusing it. It’s not an immediate treatment. Going through chemo and chest radiation, I don’t feel the need to look forward to the next part of the horror show just yet, thank you.
But when the chemo ends, I start to research. There are horror stories of people who never get out of bed anymore. Blindness, deafness, brain bleeds. A medical article suggests that perhaps Alzheimer’s drugs could be used to correct the damages of WBR. I search on, looking in vain for one single more hopeful story.
I take stock: I’m terrified of dementia. I place a high value on intellect. My memory is already “mature,” meaning that I regularly forget dates, names, places and even words. I’m partial to seeing and hearing. Does WBR sound like something I want to risk? Hell, no. So next time, I inform the Dave that it isn’t happening. He doesn’t argue.
Fast forward two and a half months. The vertigo and headache that signals brain tumor are back and inoperable. The choice narrows: lose my mind, my ability to stand up or think straight or hold a spoon, or Goddess only knows what other faculties and then, as a grand finale – die, sooner than later. Really, no choice at all, once I look at it that way.
All I can do is give in and decide that I’ll do anything possible not to become senile, self-pitying or flop like a great white whale in my bed. I set my will. I put my faith in The Dave because The Dave and my will are about my only weapons now.
During treatment, they assess me once a week. Down the checklist: headaches? Vertigo? Sleep patterns? Mood? Seizures? Memory loss? Stomach problems? Personality change?
I sleep in rounds: two hours, four hours, one hour, spread out through the day and night. The vertigo is getting milder and I don’t have headaches. Same crappity memory I always had. Personality change? I say “no,” but glance at Heather just in case she’s observed something different. She shakes her head, “no.”
But it’s not quite true. I see a difference.
In letters to friends, I’ve tried to describe the change. There is a nano-second in-between thought and reaction. Quick as a puff of air. And in that nano-second, anxiety slips away. My thought process can be very quick but I don’t feel compelled to act or judge immediately. A thought strolls in. It stays for a second. And then I act – calmly.
This, from someone who has suffered from nervous, anxious, rapid thinking processes her whole life. This from someone who has frequently wished she could shower the inside of her own overworked brain, just to make its endless yammering stop.
I still read at the same speed, my comprehension is the same. I still can do intricate work. I still love to research and haven't lost my curiousity or interests. My memory is rather unreliable – but hell, that’s no problem for a chronically organized list maker. The monkey mind still has fun – but she’s stopped throwing bananas at the tourists and is sitting in a tree-top feeling pretty darn fine.
I thought it would be terrible but it’s like being dropped from the jaws of a tiger.