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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Lessons from Cancer: I want my brain to wake up

  • I want my brain to wake up fully, but patience is the name of the game these days. Putting it all in perspective though, it is waking up so much more than it was just two days ago, and it’s getting better each and every day.

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  • I want my brain to wake up fully, but patience is the name of the game these days. Putting it all in perspective though, it is waking up so much more than it was just two days ago, and it’s getting better each and every day. 
    The lung cancer, pancreas, adrenal, renal and now brain cancer is giving me a whole slew of lessons and perspectives that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Of course I would much rather describe them from a place of not knowing and blissful ignorance other than what I am discovering. But since I am, I may as well tell you what being in my head is really like.
    My whole brain radiation was finished up two days before Mother’s Day. I was enjoying my family and friends in a very low-keyed day as I thought to myself, “This isn’t so bad.” And then the confusion began and increased over the next few days. I couldn’t keep my thoughts in check, and hard as I tried I couldn’t make sense of it all. I knew I was confused.
    I couldn’t walk without holding on and I couldn’t remember anything worth a damn. The radiation oncologist didn’t know that my thinking abilities would improve, which added to my incredible fear and anxiety. “Time will tell,” they said. In the meantime, I had to wait it out. I was transferred from MGH to Spaulding Cape Cod on May 24 to start working with PT, OT, SLP and TR three hours a day.
    As I write now, I am improving daily and can breathe a small sigh of relief with each step forward. Slowly I seem to be coming back, making steady progress. From planning out my activities of daily living and getting used to what I am supposed to do next, speech therapy is helping me to work on problem solving skills that have seemed to disappear. Re-teaching myself how to make my head work better, however, makes my chest clench with anxiety.
    I am trying to complete problem-solving skills and manage fear of failing. They call it performance anxiety, but I need cognitive management as well. Just a few days ago I couldn’t put change together to even figure out 37 cents or $4 or whatever combo they wanted to challenge me with. My brain was so foggy and confused; I was at its mercy but hoping for its best.
    Today I am more in control than yesterday, and I expect more than tomorrow. It’s great to see my progress as long as it’s steady day to day. I will keep going forward to tell you how this feels, even if I need help finding the right words. I just need to know that it will happen.
    Page 2 of 2 - Joyce Rothman of Massachusetts, a nurse for 40 years, was diagnosed with lung and pancreatic cancer in July 2010. Since then, she has been writing about her diagnosis, her treatment and her outlook on the process, in hopes of helping others. Follow her journey at http://makingsenseofitall.joycerothman.com.
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