Monday, October 13, 2014

College and Chemo Brain

I'm sorry that its been so long since I've given you all an update, I really wasn't born to be a blogger. It's not that I don't care to update you all on my health and what's been happening in my life because I do! I just always forget, or when I do remember to get on here, I know that I should be spending that time doing homework and studying instead. Yep! You heard me, I am officially a college student again! I decided to squeeze in one more semester of school at the U before I moved to Cali because quite honestly, I was scared that I would never go back. So I pushed my moving date to the end of December and I am currently taking a few classes towards my Exercise and Sports Science degree. As well as a yoga class! Yoga has been one of the best things for me in my recovery process. It is such a cleanse of the mind, body (I sweat like CRAZY in there), and the soul. I feel so spiritually sound after each class which is something I really cherish after the year that I've had. But along with yoga, I am also taking Sports Psychology, Sports in American Society, and Biology. And here is the biggest shocker, I'm actually doing the best in my Biology class, but here's why.

I have this super amazing professor named Professor Temme and the way he teaches is so amazing. He doesn't teach you to get a good grade, he actually teaches you to learn. I don't really know how else to describe it other than there's no memorizing, there's no last minute cramming for a test, either you understand the concepts or you don't. Which I am SO grateful to have a teacher like him, especially this semester. I think I've kind of explained what chemo brain is to you guys, but in case I haven't or you didn't read it, I'll let you know again because it is such a huge part of my life right now. As far as my post cancer/chemo/radiation symptoms go, all of my main symptoms are gone besides a very persistent cough and sore throat, the fatigue is still as present as ever, my hormones are ALL over the place (my Dr. says its kind of like going through puberty all over again but with hot flashes like menopause....great), and the most annoying of all would be my chemo brain. 

The term chemo brain can be kind-of misleading because new studies have shown that it can also be caused by just the cancer itself, so it's also known as cognitive dysfunction or mental fogginess. And it's exactly that. For me personally, I have a very difficult time finding common words from my vocabulary and getting them to come out of my mouth properly. I get really tongue tied, or I can't remember what the word is all together. I struggle putting entire sentences together when I'm talking to someone, almost like my mouth and my brain aren't connected, or most of the time like my brain is just shut off. I have a really hard time focussing on things, and when I can pay attention to whatever it is, I can't store it into my short or long term memory properly so I end up forgetting it. And the absolute worst part of it, which can be directly linked to the chemo, is my memory loss. So many times in the past few months my friends and family have been reminiscing on something and will say, "Do you remember when we did this..?" and I have absolutely no recollection of it.

And I know what most of you are thinking, That happens to me all the time! At least that is what EVERYONE says to me when I try to explain what chemo brain is, and I'm not here to say that's not true because I know it is, these symptoms are all things that happen to us. But the difference is that that's how my brain is about 90% of the day. It doesn't just happen once a week, or once a day, it is ALL the time. I know you are just trying to relate and I do appreciate that, but I just want you to know that it's not the same. But I really wish it was!!! The doctors say it can last a couple months, a couple years, or it might never go away, (which will NOT be the case here) but they told me that working out and going to school and using my brain as much as possible (as hard as it is) can help reduce the symptoms, so I am doing just that. I actually found a t-shirt online that said, "I have chemo brain, what's your excuse?" and I want it so bad! It explains my entire life right now. 

So besides feeling mentally impaired all the time, having pre-teen acne and cramps all over again, and always coughing like a 3 pack a day smoker, I am doing amazing! But in all seriousness, I really am doing great. It sounds bad when I put it all in the same sentence but it's about 50/50 complaining and just trying to update you on where I am in my recovery process. 

I ran my first half marathon about a month ago since being diagnosed, and I am going to San Francisco this weekend for another one! I am slow as molasses, (I blame my poor chemo stricken lungs) but I am just so happy that I have my health back and am able to start doing the things I love again. Don't get me wrong, I definitely do not love running, but I do love working out and treating my body right, so running I will continue to do. 

That's about all I have for now, this turned out to be waaay longer than I planned for it to be, so if you read that whole thing, then you're amazing! Thank you to all my amazing support system, including the 45,000 viewers of my blog! It is so crazy to me that there's that many of you willing to read through all of my rambling and follow my crazy journey and I just can't thank you enough!!!!! XOXOX

P.S. I will post about my Europe trip soon! In the meantime, here is a hair update! This picture is like a month old, so it looks just like this but longer!