It's Jeopardy Time

I hear the familiar opening tune as I arrive in the family room. It’s Jeopardy time! This is something my family has been doing for quite a while. Even now when there are only old shows on, we faithfully watch. We record the daily show and watch it later to avoid commercials. If it doesn’t record, or it is preempted by something, we turn to old episodes on Netflix or Hulu to get our Jeopardy fix.

I’m sure you’re wondering what does watching Jeopardy every day have to do with my dual diagnoses of polycythemia vera (PV) and breast cancer.

Before both of my diagnoses in 2016, I thought my memory was decent. Sure, on occasion I would space things out or forget what I came into the room for. Typical things one faces as they age.

Cue the brain fog

However, shortly after I was diagnosed with the PV, I began to notice that I was a bit more scatterbrained. Brain fog can be one of the symptoms of PV. An excessive amount of red blood cells causes thick blood. This can affect all parts of your body, including the brain.

Shortly after the PV, came the breast cancer diagnosis. Once I started chemo, things really took a turn for the worst. I couldn’t remember anything! On top of that, my concentration level was nil. Between the chemo effects and the already noticeable issues from the polycythemia vera, I was a mess. I would completely forget routine meetings and couldn’t remember staff members’ names. I even forgot to pick up the carpool at school one time. Fortunately, I had very understanding co-workers, bosses, and neighbors.

Memory and concentration are still a challenge four years later. Meeting attentiveness dissolves after about 30 minutes. I was an avid reader before the cancers, devouring a book or two a week. Now I struggle to finish any book. Once a good speller, I’m lost without the spell check function even for easy words. Passing online work-related courses will usually take multiple tries, as I can’t retain anything for more than a couple of minutes.

Fortunately, I have many memory helpers. My phone synced to my Fitbit lets me know when it’s time to take my plethora of medications. The Outlook calendar keeps me abreast of meetings and other things I am supposed to be doing. GPS functions on my phone get me to where I need to go effectively... most of the time. When needed, a good old fashion written list suffices for ordering groceries or my to-do list.

Why Jeopardy?

So why Jeopardy? For starters, it’s short enough to keep my attention. Twenty minutes (without commercials) is about my maximum for focusing.

It also challenges my mind and helps me recall things I at one time knew. Categories about medicine, music, and some geography, I do relatively well and usually can answer at least a couple of questions.

Even before cancer, I couldn’t answer anything on British royalty, the opera, anything history-related, or some of the rather obscure categories. Seriously, though, who actually knows that stuff? Sometimes the answer is on the tip of my tongue but unless my son stops it (which he does a lot) before they answer, the contestants beat me to the response. However, every so often, I surprise myself with a correct answer and I feel like I’m on top of the world.

So is playing Jeopardy actually helping me? It’s hard to say. Regardless, it does provide a confidence boost and more importantly, family bragging rights when I do get the right answer. Bring it on Alex!

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