A while back I wrote a post about my cognitive testing: https://yourhandinmind.com/2019/02/01/visuals-from-my-cognitive-testing/
It includes pictures from a particular test I took called the The Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure test, in which I had to copy a figure, then draw it from memory twice. I don’t particularly remember the conversation with my neuro-psychologist about my performance on that test, but I did look it up afterwards and saw lots of pictures of other peoples’ drawings. As I said in the previous post, I noticed how lots of other pictures seemed to start with the outline of the whole figure, whereas mine started on the right with details and then slowly moved left. I did not, though, read further into how to interpret the results. Fast forward to this morning. I’m currently listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, Talking to Strangers. It’s quite fascinating and I highly recommend it. Layperson psychology is great. Anyway, I’m listening to this chapter about interrogation techniques and studies conducted in a simulated POW camp. My ears perk up when he talks about how well-trained soldiers reacted as if they were in the real world conditions, even though they rationally knew they were in a simulation. As part of the testing, they were given the same test that I was given! What they found, as evidence of the PTSD they were experiencing, was that the participants created figures similar to mine, rather than what “normal” adults generally did. Those soldiers created figures that focused on specific parts of the figure, rather than the overall shape, just like I did! What he states next, which is something I was not aware of, is that this is more indicative of a less-formed brain, a prepubescent brain. So the soldiers experiencing PTSD had stunted cognitive processing as evidenced in the test which was similar to the stunted cognitive processing that I exhibited after my treatment. Totally interesting! I don’t have any expertise whatsoever in PTSD and cognitive processing, but it’s not totally surprising to make these connections. I have also written previous posts about how my processing seems to be more like that of a child or someone on the spectrum, though I did not realize that my results were actually evidence of this. https://yourhandinmind.com/2018/02/21/im-40-but-see-the-world-as-a-4-year-old/
I don’t have any particularly fascinating insights into this. Just did not expect to find my own connection and learn something about myself in a New York Times’ Best Seller!
In a recent trip to the grocery store, Mom and I picked up a boxed meal similar to HelloFresh and the like. We thought it would be a good idea to see if this would be an option for me when I’m solo. Let’s just say it was a bit of a disaster.
First, Mom suggested that I try it on my own to really see how it goes. We pulled out the card, which has very small print and A LOT of instructions. I just froze. The gears in my brain came to a grinding halt. I just looked at the card and nothing happened. After a minute or so, Mom ran interference. She gave me two possible tasks to do while she started other things. Two tasks. Cut the brussels sprouts or zest and juice the lemon and lime. (Side note: I just learned from writing this blog that there is an s at the end of brussel in brussels sprouts!) Again, I froze. My brain couldn’t decide even between these two things. Which would be easier? Which did I want to do? No successful data processing. Finally I settled on zesting and juicing, which consisted of me repeatedly asking questions about exactly what I was supposed to be doing. It became crystal clear that, were I to be doing this on my own, it would easily take me over an hour and be quite stressful to do. Lesson learned – pre-fab meals are not my jam. Thanks to Mom, we had a tasty meal after all.
I often still have moments where I feel guilt for not working, where I think I should be doing more. And then I am brought back to reality when I cannot follow the steps in a recipe. Such is life. Luckily I have learned lots of things that DO work for me; it just requires me sifting through these things that don’t!
I logged into my account to see that it was almost exactly a year ago that I last wrote an entry. I did in fact have a very successful comedy set last year. I closed out the show and it was fantastic. My set was about my fantasy cancer romance a la a Hallmark movie. Alas, technical difficulties led to me not having a video of the performance. However, I did have 3 good friends who attended and can vouch for me if ever necessary. The difficult process made it clear that, although I find myself quite entertaining, it takes a lot of effort to actually be an entertainer. I have great respect for comedians now for sure.
More recent happenings…
In my many dealings with other cancer patients and survivors, I’ve heard about how the spacing of MRIs gets longer and longer as the years go by…every 6 months to every year to maybe every 2 years. In my last doctor visits, I asked my oncologist about what my timeline looks like because I had recently become curious. Turns out I was operating under an incorrect assumption. It seems that this reduced frequency is for people who are “cancer-free” or whatever the appropriate term is. Because I still have remaining tumor in my head, unless there is some new treatment in the future, I will never be cancer-free. That means we have to keep monitoring for the rest of my life. It is good information to have. It makes sense; I just didn’t really look into it until recently.
Along a similar vein, now that I’m going on 2 years post-treatment, I thought I would meet the requirements to donate blood again. All the toxins are out of my body about a year post-chemo and I have no signs of growth. So I’m stable, though the term “no recurrence” is up for interpretation. I attempted to donate blood and, as is a somewhat common occurrence in my life, it turns out I am an anomaly. I don’t fit into the black and white and so being in the grey area is questionable. (I could make a grey matter joke here…) After consulting with other nurses and calling the head doctor for the blood donation facility, the nurse told me the doctor wanted to speak with me directly.
Dr: “So you’re saying you have a brain tumor but you’re not on any treatment and it’s stable?”
Dr.: “…Huh. I’ve never heard of that before. I’m gonna have to go do some research and get back to you.”
He never did. I did my duty and tried to donate blood. I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry when people’s health is at stake.
Otherwise, I guess it’s been a year because like everyone else, I’m living in 2020 and that’s much more of a crazy thing than living with wacky eyes and a wacky brain that I have gotten more and more used to. I voted yesterday and I’m happy because October is here and it’s always been my favorite month. Cheers!
My local cancer center has an amazing program for comic relief in which comedians teach cancer patients and survivors how to do comic routines. Earlier this year, the first showcase was a huge success. I sat in the audience and as soon as the first person started, I wanted to sign up for the next one. I entertain myself all the time, so I could definitely do a comic routine! A few days ago, I had my first comedy class. I was so excited. I have been thinking about all the funny things that have happened along my journey and looking forward to learning whatever they would teach me in class…until my brain wasn’t having any of it. Part of the class is on-the-spot exercises in which we had to brainstorm and then share our results with the class. My brain. Couldn’t. Do. It. This led to a mini-meltdown with some tears in which I had to come to terms with this limitation. Here was another thing that I just assumed would be fine. It didn’t even occur to me that there would be an issue. So sitting in class, with a blank page because my brain was completely frozen…just sucked. Now that I’ve gotten over my frustration, I realize a couple things. I have to recalibrate my expectations for this class moving forward because I am not giving up. I am going to get to the comedy showcase. Also, this is the first formal educational activity I’ve done since my brain has been wacky. Good info for me moving forward and also good thing I finished all my degrees years ago because there would clearly be some obstacles to making that happen now. At least I can laugh at myself through this stuff. Seriously. Maybe eventually I’ll have some good jokes to share on here when my brain gets around to realizing its comedic genius…which will hopefully be before my stand-up is scheduled. Otherwise that’s going to be five really awkward minutes for me and everyone in the audience that night!