Woman looking at a brain with a bunch of post-it notes adhered to it, the top of her head is missing and there is a swirl animating out of it.

Memory Insecurity

My memory has always been great….well, okay, my long-term memory. I can't remember the short term, ironically. But anyway, it's definitely gotten worse since having blood cancer.

Chemo brain

When I started getting radiation, I think the stress and anxiety started making me more forgetful. I could definitely not remember things my doctors would tell me, so my fiance had to accompany me to every appointment.

But chemo made things ten times worse. I've forgotten whole people. Which makes things as awkward as you can imagine. A friend of mine that I was in a musical with had actually performed with me previously in a singing variety show. I couldn't remember at all.

Sometimes, when someone explains things to me, I start to recall, and some memories start coming back to me. But other times, they never do.

Trying to prove I'm correct

Another time my memory loss can make things exceptionally frustrating is when I'm trying to explain something that had happened a certain way, but I'm not believed because my memory is so bad. People assume sometimes I'm just remembering incorrectly, and they're correct and I'm not. And I can't always dispute them because I can't remember some details.

I can't always trust my memory, and it's a little scary sometimes. But some things I do know to be true. This can also make me appear unintelligent at times, which is one of my biggest insecurities.

I will remember something I read incorrectly, or remember the way something happened wrong, or something I definitely should have known, like a friend’s medical history, will be wrong, making me look like I either don’t care or lack the knowledge. Sometimes, the knowledge does go away, but it was there originally!

Trying harder to remember

I'm trying to make a point to remember more things. Street names, people, long detailed conversations my friends and I have, etc.

Weirdly, certain things will stick and others won't. I can have the most unhelpful memory in perfect detail that I remember. But then I can't remember the address of the college I've been to a hundred times. What gives?!?

I've always been good at memorizing scene lines, though. (Thank God.) I have noticed more recently that if I need to remember something and I repeat it over and over again out loud or in my head, it sticks better. But sometimes, I will remember after the fact, which doesn’t help.

I’ve also noticed I’m more inclined to remember if someone asks me to remember something for them. Not always, but a good chunk of the time, I do.

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How I combat this

I’ve spoken about this before, I think, but I have so many alarms on my phone every day. For anything. big tasks, small tasks, etc.

I also have a big wall calendar that I’ve made a habit of looking at every morning. It has when my bills are due, gigs that I have, and any events going on that I need to get ready for.

My phone’s notebook app has everything else in detail: what I need to get at the grocery store, what I need to do to get ready for a gig, what chores I need to get done, a conversation I need to have, etc. I write or type down literally everything. I was using Post-it notes for a while, but they would sit on the wall for so long that I got used to them, and the point of having them went away.

Does chemo brain make you feel insecure, too, sometimes?

Warm wishes, Katelynn

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