Thursday, December 20, 2007

If it weren't so cloudy, I could've seen the sun rise this morning.

I woke up very early, for me, thinking about (of all things) my aphasia. Aphasia is simply the loss of the ability to speak or, in some instances, to comprehend language--your own, that is, the one you've been speaking for 22 or 47 or 75 years. It exists in varying degrees; a massive stroke, for instance, can cause complete inability to speak, whereas normal aging usually causes most of us to be unable to call up a word or two now and then.

My aphasia is caused partly by aging and menopause, but primarily by that phenomenon that used to be thought one of women's imaginary troubles, like PMS: chemo-brain. During my Adriamycin/Cytoxan followed by Taxol treatment for my primary breast tumor, in April and May of 2004, I could barely get a sentence out. I'd lose words like "car", having to say, you know, that thing you drive. (Nouns are the first to go.) I did improve after treatment ended, but I never fully recovered, and I'm noticing it worsening again on my Navelbine treatment.

"Gee! You don't sound aphasic!", you might be thinking. That's one of the things I love about writing. If I forget a word, I can use an online thesaurus, dictionary, or encyclopedia to track it down (and I absolutely did in the composing of this very post). In a conversation, I just stand there frustrated and embarrassed.

I've been fortunate to have very little of the most difficult symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatment, such as nausea and pain (though I do have significant fatigue). But I realized the other day that, having been a person who made her living advocating for others--speaking for them in various situations, such as providing testimony regarding bills that affect people with disabilities--losing my facility with words, my ability to articulate exactly what I mean--has been absolutely the hardest thing for me to handle about my "new normal", as we call it on my list for persons with breast cancer metastases.

It's a small thing, but it's part of me, and I mourn it.


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