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Cabbage Head or Chemo Brain?

 As unattractive as this photo is, it is beautiful to me because it is evidence of the healing process my body has gone through in the last few months.

Chemo fingernails

Chemotherapy drugs are designed to attack reproducing cells, but unfortunately they cannot tell the difference between the enemy reproducing cancer cells and the cells of normal tissues.  Little fingernail cells and hair cells, happily in the process of copying themselves to keep me looking lovely and feminine, found themselves one day being cruelly attacked.  Such an unfair fate for little cells just trying to do their job! 

 These photos are evidence of the resilience of the human body, and the wonderful resumption of proper cell division in hidden places.  The last remnants of chemo nails are about to disappear.

Thumbs up for the cell cycle!

Chemo thumbnail

Now let’s find some hand cream, nail file, and polish for crying out loud!

A more obvious sign of successful cell reproduction is that I’m growing a new head of hair. 

Everyone asks me the same question, “Is it curly?” 

Yes, it’s pretty curly, and no, it wasn’t that way before. 

The curl on top is okay, but the back reminds me a bit of a cupie doll.  Okay for a toddler, but not exactly what I’m going for, so I’m thinking a slight trim might be in order.  I’m sure many of you (at least three or four) are just dying to know more about that, so I’ll have more about that at another time.  Stay tuned.   

It’s harder to measure what’s going on underneath that new head of hair. At times I feel like the brain inside is functioning about as efficiently as this head of cabbage from my garden.

 Cabbage in the Garden

To say that the forgetfulness I am experiencing is a completely new thing would be inaccurate.  I naturally tend to be a bit scatterbrained, and numbers have never seemed to stay in my brain for long.  I’ve always said they would put on my tombstone “She wasn’t paying attention,” because it could be said of me in many situations.   So maybe the foggy state of my brain in the last few months is just business as usual.  Or maybe it came as a gift for my fiftieth birthday.  Is it a result of chemtherapy, referred to as “chemo brain”?  Weariness from a couple of years of intensely emotional events?  Or a combination of them all?

Whatever it’s source it does add some stress to my workday and to social situations. 

According to the Mayo Clinic website, signs and symptoms of chemo brain may include:

  • Being unusually disorganized  (As opposed to usually disorganized?)

  • Confusion (Huh?)

  • Difficulty concentrating  (Like when I found that I had put my boiled egg on the plate and put the plate back in the dish cabinet?)

  • Difficulty finding the right word (Or the name of that person I’ve known for 12 years?)

  • Difficulty learning new skills (Like how to use the new gradebook program, and the new website program, and the new subfinding system, and…)

  • Difficulty multitasking  (Never a strength, but managing multiple ten year olds requires multitasking.)

  • Fatigue (anyone out there not experiencing this?)

  • Feeling of mental fogginess  (Yep, that’s the feeling.)

  • Short attention span  (Nothing new. Remember what I said about my tombstone?)

  • Short-term memory problems (What were we talking about?)

  • Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks (Like this post?)

  • Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation (Rather inconvenient when talking to a parent about that certain incident with that one student more than a week ago.)

  • Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words (Numbers are even worse.)

Signs and symptoms of cognitive or memory problems vary from person to person and are typically temporary, (here’s the good news) often subsiding within two years of completion of cancer treatment.

If chemo brain is to blame for my muddled brain, then I suppose the answer for it is the same as for growing cabbage or curing baldness or bad fingernails; Give it some time. 


Cabbage leaves in the rain


Grow cabbage, grow!

Garden cabbage with raindrops

In the meantime I appreciate your patience.  And if it’s not too much trouble, would everyone wear a nametag?



One Comment

  1. Posted 20 Feb ’12 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Laura Nell,
    It’s so wonderful that your body is responding to the drugs! Yeah! As for the cabbage brain, I open the pantry door and forget why! It’s crazy! I’m blaming it on menopause.:) Are the David Austin roses gorgeous? I love all the names. You ought to do a post and give us novices some nips.:)

3 Trackbacks

  1. By So How’s That Working for Me? on 16 Apr ’12 at 11:34 pm

    [...] permalink. Post a comment. Leave a Trackback (URL). As I have mentioned in an earlier post, my rememberer seems to be broken.  That part of me has never functioned at full capacity, but of late it is in a terrible state of [...]

  2. By Adventures in Silk Land on 1 May ’12 at 9:39 am

    [...] I admit, I don’t really remember the exact words.  I’ve already told you I can’t remember what I had for breakfast by the time lunch rolls around, but I’m pretty sure it was something [...]

  3. By Watercolor Memories on 28 Jul ’12 at 11:10 am

    [...] experience was like a magic potion for the Remembering Part of My Brain, a part that gives me some trouble on occasion.  [...]

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