Chemo Fog

Talking with my oncologist before starting chemo, he asked where I had had a particular test done. I told him I couldn’t remember, that I was struggling with pre-chemo fog. He told me that researchers are studying “chemo fog” to determine if it’s due to chemo or just the stress of having cancer. I’m guessing it’s the stress. It feels very similar to toddler fog. No chemicals involved in that, just a few sleepless nights.

I’m not writing as many lists, trying to capture every tidbit of life’s to-do’s. Many weeks I hone in on the basics: food, clothing, shelter. During the chemo weeks, friends have been a godsend with food. I get a Peapod order together for the weekend, and at last I’m thankful that the boys love mac’n’cheese. I go to the sanctity of the laundry pile when towels and underwear are low. I make sure the mortgage and the utilities are paid.

The next level: taking care of personal needs. Ordering a prescription for Bill. Taking the boys for a haircut. Buying shampoo for myself. Just kidding. ;) I’m realizing how much we are all capable of doing, and I am learning to delegate more. We’ve eaten together as a family of four for three years. Plates, glasses, and silverware have been thoroughly defined. Rather than a beck and call girl to get dinner on the table, I enlist a little help to set and to clear the table.

From here, I start slipping.

The school cold lunch routine is laughable. I have done well not to forget to pack the lunches and the school bags. Always pushing the clock to get Will to kindergarten on time, I often drop lunch bags in our booster seats by the school office, with the intent to put them in the fridge after I take the boys to their classes. I do this discreetly so Liam doesn’t notice and want to stuff them into the fridge himself, making us tardy. In late September, Liam’s teacher told me she had found the bags outside the office and was a little confused by why they were there. Will’s teacher, standing nearby, added that she had found them there a few times as well. As for me – no idea that I had been zipping right past them nearly every morning! I THINK I’m doing a bit better now, but the kids and the teachers have it under control. If the lunch bags aren’t in the fridge, they know to look in the booster seats.

Conversations I have, especially just after chemo, are hit and miss as to what I’ll remember. I will get off the phone and think, “Now why did Jen call?” If the conversation is date related, I stand at the calendar while talking. I don’t want to miss someone stopping by or something going on at school. Still, Will’s parent/teacher conferences came and went without me signing up for a slot, but we rescheduled and made it up.

My mind works like a sieve. Being a recovering perfectionist, my pre-cancer/chemo sieve had tiny holes in it, letting virtually nothing escape. Keeping to-do lists at hand that were a mile long and never completed. The fog has enlarged the holes in the sieve. The rocks – food, clothing and shelter – can’t drop through the holes. The marbles – taking care of personal needs – generally can’t drop through. As for the pebbles and sand, hit and miss. If I get it on the calendar, it’s a hit. The strange thing is that I’m pretty much OK with this. I’m not stressing out over little things. I’m not over-committing. I’m working on Christmas cards. If all aren’t sent before Christmas, I’ll be wishing friends and family a Happy New Year or Happy Valentine’s Day. People do enjoy receiving mail at times other than the holidays. Santa’s letters aren’t written yet, but he doesn’t fly until Christmas Eve and has enough elfin magic to work on short notice. Plus, he already knows the kids have been nice. We bought a real tree and decorated it not in an afternoon but gradually over the course of two days. It’s up; it’s beautiful; all boxes are now out of the dining room and back in the loft.

I can’t clear all the fog. But with a little red-nosed glow, I can get to where I need to be. In the moment. Confident that the details, if really necessary, will one way or another get sorted out.

Staying strong and wishing all of you a glowing holiday,