I have short term memory loss and have been seeing a memory Neurologist for a year. It started suddenly with the 4th dose of a chemo drug called Taxol, a drug that literally burned my nerves, then my memory problems took a rapid downhill turn after severe hypoxia from a long reconstructive surgery. My Neurologist is also concerned that I don’t respond well to anesthesia, and my three surgeries may have damaged my brain. For some reason, which the above doesn’t well define, my hippocampus and frontal lobe are deteriorating. While I apparently have 11 different medical reasons for memory deterioration, none of them completely “fit the bill”. So I am starting a patch that delivers a memory enhancing drug 24 hours a day to help alleviate the constant fuzziness and forgetfulness that I new experience on a daily basis.
But I am better then I was a year ago, and I attribute much of it to poetry. Before my cancer diagnoses, I would dabble only if someone wanted a birthday rhyme, or a humorous short poem. It never consumed my soul. After my mastectomy, I wrote a bitter poem on the ordeal. See Triumph Over Mutilation And realized that poems are a unique way of expression unlike any other. So I made a bucket list, and wrote about 40 poems during chemotherapy and put them in a book for my parents for Christmas. I figured I was done. But after the horrible reconstruction, I could hardly put a sentence together. I had a complete blank on word recall. It was like a black wall that I could not penetrate. I couldn’t find anything that I put down, even a few moments prior. I relied on my husband to find words and objects for me. Thank God for 20 years of marriage! He actually was able to find most of the words I couldn’t remember!
“Oh, Brent HELP!”
“I need that word!”
“YOU know, the word for the thing in the kitchen.”
“Can you be any more specific?”
It’s the thing we make potato soup with.”
“You mean a blender?”
“YES! A blender, thank you!”
To my surprise, I found myself literally obsessed with writing poems. I know it was my brain’s attempt to heal itself. I wrote about 40 during my surgery leave. Over time, the word recall, while still a problem, is much improved, and the word will slowly trickle into my head. But I still have to ask my husband for many words.
Work is a problem. I am a pediatric dialysis nurse and educator. A tough, technically challenging job that requires extensive specialized knowledge and attention to detail, nerves of steel and the ability to care for neonates to age 21 on all forms of dialysis and apheresis. I constantly find myself hunting for words, even simple ones that I have known for 20 years. I don’t remember emails that I sent a short time prior. We are a small unit and write all our own materials and procedures. As a prolific writer, I am a project wizard. Give me a writing project and I will churn it out. I struggle now to keep track of them all, especially as I recently moved into an entire new area that has me scrambling for where everything is located now. Not good for memory challenged persons.
That is why I like writing. No one sees how I grab my hair and close my eyes for sometimes minutes at a time trying to remember that darn word I want. And there is that flash of complete happiness when you have it, and you see your poem complete and it beautifully or liltingly describes what was just a feeling or vague idea.
There is always a silver lining and I thank God for it.