Pre-cancer, I was sturdy, strong, resilient. I reached far into the sky, living the myth that mortality was far, far away, especially since I took excellent care of my body. Like many young people, I believed I wouldn’t have to confront death for a long time.
I had incredible amounts of energy and an amazing memory, and I was in excellent physical shape, being an avid runner and walker.
Until cancer made me realize long-term health was a pipe dream.
Understandably, I’ve never been the same since diagnosis. After all, who is?
During treatment I felt exceedingly old, lacking energy, suffering from extreme fatigue and major cognitive impairment. Medical staff told me that I’d bounce back after treatment. But a funny thing happened on the way to post-cancer: I didn’t bounce back well.
The body and the mind never forget a hurt. And cancer and its treatments are a major hurt.
And I still have chemobrain — 14 years after chemo ended. My rewired brain has gone haywire.
I struggle with short-term memory. In desperation to brush back the chemo fog, I desperately play Lumosity brain games, but I get frustrated easily. Reading is more difficult, as my attention span has diminished. But I keep reading; I refuse to give up on literature, which I love, and I refuse to completely give in to chemobrain.
But, let’s face it, since cancer, I feel older than I am.
I have felt old since the very first chemotherapy treatment and since radiation.
And to add insult to injury, some medical professionals use diversion tactics to deny that cancer treatments have aged me.
Like the specialist who told me that a stress fracture was because my body wasn’t sufficiently conditioned, rather than the truth about my compromised bone health. Or the physician who wondered if other fractures were due to me accidentally sustaining a recent injury rather than wonder about my poor bone density.
Or the doctor who flippantly told me that my short-term memory problems were not due to chemobrain at all, but due to the natural process of aging.
Or the doctor who blamed my brain problems on aging rather than chemobrain. How could this be, when I noticed a decline in cognitive abilities after my very first chemo treatment? My brain power didn’t coincidentally diminish on its own as soon as chemo was administered.
Or the physician who told me the effects of chemobrain were short-term and I shouldn’t have symptoms of cognitive impairment more than a year after treatment. Well, I know my brain fog is permanent.
Or the doctor who believes my medications are the short-term-memory culprits.
Some physicians simply dismiss my true concerns and feelings about cancer treatments’ collateral toll on the body, mind, and spirit.
If I weren’t so level-headed, I might think there is a medical conspiracy to keep mum about treatment’s looooong-lasting effects.
I’m not trying to be ungrateful here. I’m grateful to be alive, NED (no evidence of disease), and to be able to swim and walk. Not everyone is this lucky. I love my doctors and medical staff. But sometimes I just feel dismissed.
Patients house too many truths to be dismissed.
Have you ever felt dismissed by medical professionals?
Do you feel cancer and/or its treatments have aged you?
Tags: breast cancer, cancer and aftermath, cancer and aging, cancer and body image, cancer treatments, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery