Back in high school, I could tell you the birthdays of many of the kids in my class. Granted, there were only 75 of us, but still—who remembers these things? Apparently I do. Even now, 18 years after graduation. Matt C.? August 2. Tammy E.? May 12. Steve H.? May 3. And these people weren’t my best friends. They were acquaintances . . . people that I hardly spent any time with!
And it isn’t just birthdays. Other stupid little facts are stored somewhere in the warehouse that is my brain. Occasionally they come in handy when I’m playing Trivial Pursuit, but really, how often do you encounter the question that asks what the letters in UNICEF stand for (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund)?
I think an empty semi has pulled up to my warehouse’s loading dock, and the forklifts are loading it with pallets of important stuff like due dates of friends’ babies, conversations, and appointments. Beep! Beep! Beep! These items must get carted off and hauled to a landfill somewhere like the trash we leave at the curb, because they’re definitely not in my brain anymore.
I was explaining all this to my oncologist recently as he was taking my blood pressure.
Me: “I can’t remember anything anymore. J.P. asked me when N’s baby is due, and I couldn’t remember, even though she just told me two days ago!”
Doc: Shrugs like it’s not a big deal while continuing to pump up the BP cuff.
Me: “Do you think it’s the chemo? Menopause (chemically induced)? Or maybe it’s just that I’m getting older?”
Doc: “Do you really want to know what I think? ‘Cause you’re not going to like it.”
Doc: “I think it’s that you always have the threat of the cancer hanging over your head. It’s always in the back of your mind, and you don’t concentrate on the other things as much because of it.”
Me: “Really? I really don’t spend much time thinking about the cancer. Are you sure?”
Doc: “Could be.”
By this time he had finished with the blood pressure. He took off the cuff and left the room so I could change into the oversized paper towel that passes for an exam gown. When he returned after a few minutes, he walked straight over to me and started wrapping the blood pressure cuff around my arm.
Me: “Um, you already did that. So do you have any other theories on what might cause memory loss?”