An interesting side effect of chemotherapy that my dad warned me about is forgetfulness. He had noticed this with my mom when she was going through chemo for breast cancer a few years back. I can only imagine that it must have been shocking for him.
To call my mom’s memory simply her “memory” would be an injustice. She has a memory that can compete with the CIA’s most impressive, most classified computerized databases — every detail, every time you didn’t clean your room, every time you didn’t finish every bit off your plate and therefore deprived some poor child in Cambodia from eating — she remembered. And it would come back to haunt you years later in a twisted turn of fate. You might remark, “Look at this nice necklace. I think I might buy it.” And then she would shut you down with a reminder, “Remember all those necklaces you had strewn carelessly all over your room and never wore when you were 14? Including that pink beaded one with the feathers that I told you not to get, but you didn’t listen?”
Alan’s memory was never anything close to my mom’s, (but then there are few people with memories like hers, and even then, when these rare people are discovered, they are usually captured and held for scientific study). Still though, I have noticed his memory is becoming shorter and shorter as his chemotherapy cycles go on. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve begun to consider writing short notes and clipping them onto his shirt. I think I saw this in a movie once and it worked quite well for the protagonist, unless I’m thinking of the movie Memento, but then again those were tattoos…
At the beginning of chemo, I noticed small things. I would find bottles of Palmolive in the fridge sitting next to the milk. That was a blunder almost anyone could make, what with Palmolive’s tall shapely bottle resembling that of maple syrup’s. But now, if I deviate from our regular schedule, I will need to alert him to the upcoming change a few times the day before and maybe once again the morning of. On Sunday, I told him I’d be working late Monday on the signing orchestration of the company’s holiday cards. Later that night, as we arranged the blankets on the bed, I reminded him again that I’d be home late. He asked me where I would be and what I might be doing, as if he had just heard this news for the first time.
Sometimes his short memory is fun. It sure takes the pressure off of having to be interesting and entertaining all the time. Normally, I try to come home with a couple of good stories to share everyday. Now I just come home with one really good one and repeat it every other day or so, and everytime he laughs as though he’s just heard it.
But when I need him to remember that I’m really just at work and that I haven’t gotten crushed by a monster truck on my drive home, his memory is not so useful. Yesterday, half an hour after I usually get home, Alan called to ask me where I was and what I might be doing? He mentioned that he was waiting for me so that we could eat dinner together, and that he was really hungry and where was I and what might I be doing?