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Jay Lake
Date: 2012-06-25 05:29
Subject: [cancer] What's still missing
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, friends, personal
As of last week, I'm six months out of the second chemo series. I'm in good health. I'm happy, energetic, and about as good as I'm likely to get. I've been reflecting on what's missing, though. A few things will never be right.

My feet are still slightly numb. I have to look down more when I walk.

My lower GI continues erratic, even on my best days. (I have drugs for this when really needed.)

My erectile function continues erratic, even on my best days. (I have drugs for this when really needed.)

All of that I can live with. Annoying, sometimes greatly so, but small prices to pay. The one that troubles me more is subtle, almost elusive, but just as real as the other, more physiological signifiers.

My memory isn't what it used to be. I have weird holes, especially for things that have happened over the last three years. Not vast, gaping ones that make me obviously strange. But, for example, on seeing Ty Franck at the Locus Awards, I honestly couldn't remember ever meeting him before. He tells me we've had dinner. Last January when I saw Brent Weeks at Epic Confusion, I asked him if we'd ever met. In fact we had, several times, including some good conversations, and my daughter is a fan of his.

These are deeply embarrassing moments for me. Not remembering someone is one of the rudest things you can do. Most of my memory holes I can ignore or cover up, even from myself. But when I don't remember a person, well, that's hard to hide, especially if it catches me by surprise.

This is just something I have to live with. It doesn't trouble me deeply, or cause me to think ill of myself. It does make me sad. Because if I don't remember, how do I know what I'm missing?

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russ: zen
User: goulo
Date: 2012-06-25 13:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Interesting coincidence... We just read an autobiographical French comic book La Parenthèse by Élodie Durand about memory loss (in her case, as a result of some brain condition causing epileptic attacks and other more severe symptoms). It was interesting and touching (and ultimately inspiring).

It's weird how even when we're quite healthy our memory can so often play tricks on us. (E.g. see various disturbing studies about accused criminals convicted on bogus eyewitness testimony... or on the lighter side, couples whose memories disagree about when they first met or what their first movie date was and so on.)


> Not remembering someone is one of the rudest things you can do.


One of the more socially awkward and sometimes embarrassing things you can do, yes. But rudest?

I feel compelled to disagree... I feel like this is to a large degree a bogus social stigma that makes people feel unnecessarily guilty and ashamed, even though some of us try all kinds of techniques, with limited success, to try to remember faces. Most people forget all kinds of stuff from time to time. It doesn't mean they're rude jerks, even though lots of people seem want to take personal offense at it and assume the worst of someone when someone doesn't remember them.

But remembering people and names and faces is genuinely hard for a lot of people. There's a reason events often use name tags, after all... :)

> It doesn't trouble me deeply, or cause me to think ill of myself.

I think ill of myself when I do terribly rude things - so I guess you've reassessed that idea that not remembering someone is one of the rudest things you can do! I'm glad! :)

Personally, I can think of FAR ruder things one can do... E.g. I'd rather have someone forget who I was than remember and me say "Oh yeah, I remember you! You're that stupid idiot." :)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-06-25 13:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I suppose I was drawing a(n unstated) distinction between deliberate rudeness and the somewhat automatic mechanics of social intercourse.
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User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2012-06-25 22:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
At least you can blame it on the chemo. I've had similar lapses of memory without chemo.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-06-25 22:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah. I know it's middle age, too. But the chemo has abruptly precipitated various changes and deficiencies that I might otherwise have spent some years before encountering.
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User: mmegaera
Date: 2012-06-25 23:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have a terrible time putting names and faces together, and I always have, ever since I was young (I'm 53 now). I hope people don't think I'm terribly rude when I can't make those connections. That thought actually horrifies me.

Everything else you say makes me think of Simon Illyan. Are you sure they didn't remove an eidetic chip during one of your surgeries?
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2012-06-25 13:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I wonder if the B12 supplement factor is an issue. The doctors told DS he needed to be taking it because what he had taken out of his gut was one of the primary spots for absorbing it...and B12 is a factor in memory processing.
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Alice Bentley
User: alicebentley
Date: 2012-06-25 14:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If I judge by my own experience, and the tales of my age-mates, the gaps in memory you describe come to us all with age.

I used to think it was an access problem: too many similar memories and the loss of the ability to distinguish them. For example, I have evidence that I was at the San Diego ComicCon last year, but not one firm memory. Too many years of more-or-less the same things happening in a tiring and stressful (but very enjoyable) environment, and I mix up which one was when.

But the more I talk with other people, and observe my own data assemblage and recall, the more I'm convinced that it's an organic - and age related - change in the ability to retain information. And I get more comfortable with just admitting up front that I don't remember everyone, and would really appreciate added background, while being sure to add some background myself.
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User: mevennen
Date: 2012-06-25 15:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Likewise. It's definitely age related.
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User: klwilliams
Date: 2012-06-25 17:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
These are almost exactly (modulo gender) the effects that MS is having on me. (Plus I have strong muscle spasms every time I try to move after being in one position for a while, and can't walk for long distances.) You have my complete sympathy and understanding.
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User: cascade_writers
Date: 2012-06-25 18:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm sorry this is happening! It happens to me all of the time. I think it's a combination of age and other factors (for me, traumatic brain injury, surgeries involving serious meds, etc.).

You are charming and people love you, even if your memory isn't perfect. What I do is explain to people that I have memory issues when I ask them to remind me of their name and they seem to understand and accept that.
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User: alumiere
Date: 2012-06-26 02:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Because if I don't remember, how do I know what I'm missing? What an excellent way to put it. I get angry about the memory fail when I notice I've lost time again (usually because my partner tells me or I see it's thursday when I think it is monday); sad is not my default state but I totally get what you're saying here.
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dinogrl: daffy eyes in the back of his head
User: dinogrl
Date: 2012-06-26 04:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:daffy eyes in the back of his head
When I was up in Seattle last, I had dinner out with my former colleagues from the last school I was at while living there. Talk about having a brain melt down.
I blame it on age and overcapacity. My brain functioning with teaching 20-30 students a year (that have on the average one or more parents), going to conventions and meeting 100's of your new best friends. In the far reaches of my past, my media days as well came with a subset of colleagues too. Oh my, my brain doesn't compartmentalize well over time. Don't punish yourself for a human condition. We can't all be tarp as shacks, all the time, y'know.
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2012-06-26 13:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
>>These are deeply embarrassing moments for me. Not remembering someone is one of the rudest things you can do.<<

Perhaps that's true for a World-Class Extrovert and son of a diplomat, but for us small-time Midwestern introverts, it's standard operating procedure. Forgetting a name? A common experience for me, with only a moment of embarrassment. Just as if someone forgot my name, I just shrug it off and make a wisecrack.

I suspect you are more annoyed by it than the recipient of the gaffe. ;)
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User: finnyb
Date: 2012-07-17 04:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Between faceblindness and the meds I shouldn't've been put on some years ago, I even have trouble remembering the husband. I don't know if it's rude or not (any more than I know if the "Huh?" and "I didn't catch what you just said" that are consequences of my auditory processing issues are rude), but it's definitely annoyign!
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