I’ve had some scary experiences lately.
* My cordless phone suddenly switched to speaker. I had no idea how it happened and could not for the life of me figure out how to switch it back until I had randomly pushed lots of buttons.
* I somehow managed to delete a whole folder of bookmarks from my browser irretrievably.
* I realized that I had forgotten to salt the soup, salted it, tasted it, then realized that I must have salted it at least three times already. *
* I found myself utterly stymied in navigating a website that I use frequently.
Each of these is a little thing, but heavy with significance: is my mind going? Is it chemobrain still? (Can chemobrain get worse even after years without chemo? I doubt it.) Or is it, as my wonderful friend Aliza likes to say euphemistically, anno domini, increasing age?
Either way, it scares me to death.
My mind has always been a touchstone, a given, the one sure thing in a life that has often been disrupted by difficulties and tragedy. No matter how hard my external circumstances were, I could always count on that inner resource: a mind that could observe, analyze, evaluate, plan, and find solutions, workarounds, or ways to cope. What will I do if I lose that?
I suppose I’ve relied too much on my intellect in the course of my life, but it is very difficult to change that habit now. For some years I’ve been working on becoming a kind person, and I hope that when my mind goes, as I now believe it will one day, the kindness will remain. Good-natured patients receive better care than nasty ones. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. **
The DSM V doesn’t talk about dementia; it talks about minor or major neurocognitive disorder. I probably meet the criteria for minor neurocognitive disorder, but I don’t see the point in going for neuropsychological testing at this point. What scares me is the possibility (probability?) that my deficits will worsen to the point that I lose my independence. That scares the petunias out of me.
My problems (loss of balance, decreased hand strength, memory problems, etc.) could also point in the general direction of brain mets, but I’m doing a Scarlett O’Hara on that one. I’ll think about it tomorrow. I am still avoiding doctors as much as I can, and I intend to continue in that vein.
The main thing for me is to do what I can to maintain my cognitive function and then to let go of the anxiety. I do crosswords and jigsaw puzzles and logic problems. I engage with people. I keep up with the news (tragic though it be). I write.
One of the most unfair things about living with metastatic breast cancer is that you don’t get a free pass on the other stuff. Be this brain mets or aging, all I can do is what I always try to do. I try to maintain a humor-filled distance between myself and the Bad Things, take the practical steps that are in power to do, write about my fears to expose them, pray, let go. Prescribed meds as required. Keep on living until I die.