I messed up leading in worship today. I knew exactly what I wanted to say but the words didn’t come out the way I wanted them to. It was quite obvious and for me, somewhat upsetting. My grandmother would have laughed it off saying “My tongue got wrapped around my eye tooth and I couldn’t see what I was saying!” Well, grandmother, this is happening a lot these days and I am not always laughing about it. Now don’t get me wrong. I am usually good at laughing at myself. But this is different. Since I started chemo in April, I’ve been dreading the day that chemo brain would set in and quite frankly, I’ve been praying that it would leave me alone. Isn’t it enough that I have to endure the side effects of GI upsets and fatigue? Now it feels like my brain is short circuiting at the most inopportune times.
Last week it happened while I was driving. I needed to pick up something to send to my son who is in the Peace Corps. I’ve driven this route many times before so there was no need for me to put the destination in my GPS. But…about halfway there…it happens. I can’t think of where I need to turn. Is it at the next light or the one after it? Do I turn right or left? What is happening to me? I feel a mild case of panic sweep over me as I search my brain for the answer. Little beads of sweat pop out on my forehead. My stomach starts to get that feeling like when your teacher called on you and you didn’t know the answer because you hadn’t done your homework. Then I see a recognizable landmark and suddenly I know where to turn. Thank you, brain, for this favor. Next time, let’s kick in a bit sooner!
For those undergoing chemotherapy, chemo brain is a real phenomenon. The symptoms include mental fogginess and difficulty concentrating. It stems from changes in the brain’s metabolism occurring in regions of the brain involved in long-term memory, mental agility, decision making, and problem solving. There are times when I can’t seem to get my brain going. Other times my brain gets stuck and will not shut off…especially at bedtime. There have been many nights I have stayed awake because my brain was so busy wandering all over the place! There are also times when I can’t recall a person’s name, even someone I’ve known for a long time. Other times I feel like I am searching through a stack of dictionaries three feet deep looking for the words to complete a sentence. And then there are times, like today in worship, when my words get mixed up. But, in the midst of this miserable experience, there is good news: chemo brain almost always goes away once chemotherapy is finished. I only have four more treatments to go! There is light at the end of this tunnel!
Going through chemotherapy is like running a marathon. It requires endurance which is obtained through proper training. But sometimes, no matter how hard you have trained, you get a cramp when running. Right now my brain is cramping making it harder for me to run but I am still on the course. I will not drop out of this race. Why? Because the God who began a good work in me has not left me to suffer alone. Whatever God has in store for me, God will complete it. I am most confident of this. How is God sustaining you today?
"I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ."