Many years ago, I read somewhere that having anaesthesia caused the death of brain cells, especially those associated with memory.
Unfortunately, over the years since I turned 30-years-old, I have undergone quite a few surgeries. Five to treat endometriosis, including a hysterectomy, and then my gall bladder was removed. For mesothelioma it was three surgeries, one which had me out for some eight to nine hours.
Now, the latest findings report that chemotherapy can also cause memory loss and forgetfulness. Some people call that “chemo brain.” I have had 13 doses of chemotherapy, not as many as some, but more than others. On top of that, I take morphine and pregablin, both of which can adversely affect your memory.
I used to pride myself on being able to remember dates, events and information that was important to my job and things important to my friends. I would multitask at work without thinking. Today, things have really changed. No longer do I bounce between three different programs, do what I need to and take a telephone call at the same time. I have to focus my full attention on just one thing at a time. If I do talk to someone on the telephone when I am in the middle of doing a task, I forget completely what the task was. And once I go back to what I was doing I forget what I was asked to do on the telephone!
Emailing: how can you possibly forget things when you email? But when you have email accounts for work and various personal accounts, you forget which one you have used or whether your emails are in Outlook, Gmail or Windows live! You spend more time searching for things than you do reading them.
This happened the other day. I received an email requesting information on mesothelioma. I opened it on my iPad and thought I would answer it on my computer. Because I had opened it on the iPad it didn’t show up as unread mail on my computer, and I never answered it. Two months later I am clearing my emails into folders and I found it. I had to apologise profusely for not answering sooner.
My husband thinks my memory loss is quite good because he can get away with things. If he has forgotten something on the grocery list, for example, he says I never told him. Of course I can’t say I did because I am never sure whether I told him to add things or not.
These are just simple trivial things, but seriously this memory loss can be bad. It isn’t just long term memory that comes and goes but short-term as well. I was asked to ring a friend as I was leaving the room, I passed the telephone but the thought had completely gone. An hour or two later my friend rang and said, “I thought you were ringing right back, what happened?” If this had been an emergency, it could have had serious consequences.
The other strange thing is your memory does start coming back. Unfortunately for me, just as I start to improve, I have found that I am back on chemotherapy and the memory problem resurfaces.
I guess what I am trying to say is to you that this is your “new normal” if you have undergone surgery and/or chemotherapy. Maybe you will be lucky and it does not have an effect on you, but if it does, all I can tell you is to try and remember to make notes, and then keep your note pad in the same place!