One good thing that has come from COVID is that I am actually reading more. I don’t know that it really has anything to do with COVID, perhaps it’s just cyclical for me with my visual processing issues. Recently I had two reading errors that I thought I would write about. I’ve written in the past about how my reading errors tend to be based on seeing the end of the word and then my brain calling upon the most available word that ends that way. People with normal vision generally process words by focusing more on the beginning of the word and the overall word shape. Since I am often missing both of those pieces of information with my left side deficits, this leads to some very confusing and entertaining headlines and sentences. A few days ago, while scrolling through news headlines, I read “Rabid baboon sightings in Arlington” and I immediately pictured a scene out of a movie where zoo animals are roaming the streets. I reread the headline and it turned out to be a rabid RACCOON, which clearly makes much more sense. I am fascinated by my brain going to baboon before raccoon. I really cannot recall the last time I thought of a baboon, and even now as I try to picture one, I’m somewhere between an orangutan and a chimpanzee. I should probably just Google baboon…yikes, I would be seriously concerned if one of those was roaming the streets of Arlington!
The second error that got me was a sign that said something about Deaf Chickens. I don’t remember exactly what the sign was for and clearly it wasn’t really about deaf chickens. It said something about Deaf Children. Looks like my brain was a little bit better at seeing the shape of the word, but again, what does it say about me that my brain went to chicken before children? I really don’t know. The deaf chicken sign, though, actually got me thinking about deaf chickens. I’m sure they exist. Have I ever in my life thought about the possibility of chickens being deaf or disabled in some way? In fact, most of my thoughts about the disabled are related to people. But, why wouldn’t there be just as many, if not more disabled animals out there in the world? Blind animals. Deaf animals. Sure, we’ve heard of pets who are. But wild animals. They probably don’t last all that long, sadly. That’s probably why we don’t have frequent thoughts about them! That got me wondering what life would be like for a blind bird. Probably not too easy. Or a deaf bat. Can one feel echoes? My brain is going in all kinds of terrible comedic directions now. Duck with one leg? Does it just go in circles? Now that I think about it, I suppose animals can get brain tumors too. They just don’t get radiation and chemo, unless they are house pets with owners who have the means to make that happen. Suppose this is something that zoo people have to tend to on occasion. The brain, especially a wacky one, can wander to so many interesting places…at least for today, in this weird time of COVID, rabid baboons and deaf chickens brought me some entertainment.
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!