I Can’t Forget What I Don’t Remember

I wouldn’t say I’m forgetting things, but according to my wife, Dina, I certainly don’t seem to be remembering them, at least as she does. Naturally, this “misremembering” could be attributed to the condition which likely affects many couples who have been over hill, over dale and over many dusty trails in nearly 39 years of marriage, as we have. Nevertheless, identifying the condition doesn’t soothe the savage beast. Another possible/probable explanation is the ever-unpopular, recently-confirmed actual occurrence common to many cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: “chemo brain.”

Even though I’m a veteran of these cancer/chemo wars apparently doesn’t make me immune to its harmful effects. Quite the contrary in fact. Survival is wonderful, but yearslong treatment does take its toll. And for a cancer patient now in his ninth consecutive year of treatment, the bell tolls for me. Fortunately, I can still hear the bell. The question is: will I remember having heard it? I say, absolutely! My wife says: not so fast.

All kidding aside, I can see this difference of opinion becoming a problem. At present, I’m not the least bit (well, maybe a little bit, otherwise; why would I be droning on about it?) concerned about a few of our memories fading since I don’t believe that they have. I’m inclined to invoke an opposite-George Costanza here and say it’s her, not me. Not surprisingly, my wife will play the part of one of George’s ex-girlfriends and say it’s definitely me. So what else is new? Nothing. The question/worry is: will this become a chronic problem?

Which in a way is what all us heretofore “terminal” cancer patients want. Obviously, a cure for what ails me/others similarly diagnosed would be ideal, but the more realistic scenario is that one day, cancer will treated as a chronic condition, like diabetes, not a terminal disease as my stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer was originally characterized by my oncologist on Feb. 27, 2009 (you bet I remember that date!). Oh yes, that is a date that will live in infamy. Unlike Pearl Harbor, however, where thousands died, and unlike the message delivered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt that same day, when the sober news was first heard by a nation then at war, only three people heard what my oncologist said to me that day, and only my life was at stake, though certainly my wife, Dina and my brother, Richard were impacted, even though they weren’t he ones receiving a grim prognosis.

As Dina and I regularly reminisce about our life together, we regularly have different recollections. She’s entitled. I’m entitled. There might be a right. There might be a wrong. But without Warner Wolf around to “go to the videotape,” the chance that we’ll remember a shared memory similarly or at all considering there’s now almost four decades worth of stuff is unrealistic, isn’t it? I mean, we’re different people. We process and store information differently. In fact, I might say, it’s likely a miracle if we did actually remember, identically, people, place and things.

The older one gets, the greater the cumulative information in our brains and apparently, the less chemical/muscular ability we have to access/retrieve all that information. Not remembering or remembering differently is nothing more than the passage of time rearing its ugly head. Now combine that inevitability with the toxicity of chemotherapy — and God knows what else my cancer is affecting, and what you have here is a sitting duck. If I were to believe totally in this inevitability or in my wife’s assessment, I would say there’s disintegrating hope for me. But I don’t. I believe in the power of me. I believe in the power of positive thinking and in always seeing the bright side — and joking/laughing about all of it. So what if I don’t remember or remember differently, it probably wasn’t worth remembering anyway.

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