Parental Brain Delay

April 30, 2012

Do you remember those commercials several years ago that showed two images and claimed: "This is your brain..." and, "This is your brain on drugs?" Well, I think maybe we could draw a similar comparison in another category called: "This is your brain..." and, "This is your brain now that you have a seriously ill child."

You see, five years ago our toddler son was diagnosed with cancer. My world completely changed. My routine, my hopes, my thoughts and my goals were all stuffed into an imaginary blender somewhere and turned on high speed. Everything was whirled around and plopped into my lap and was declared my "new normal." And I accepted the challenge. When your child is fighting for their life, you don't even think twice before engaging in the fight with them. I wished I could take the cancer from our son, but I couldn't, so I did everything I could to help him through his long course of chemotherapy treatments.

But it was during those months of fighting and focusing on our son that my brain seemed to turn into scrambled eggs. And if you have, or have had, a child with a serious illness you can probably relate. I'm going to call it Parental Brain Delay or PBD for short.

While at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where we did a lot of the most difficult treatments, my brain delay was in full-swing. One day, a nurse asked me what we were going to do after our chemo appointment was finished and I told her proudly and with a smile that we were going to ride on "Spencer." She smiled back sweetly and then wondered aloud who Spencer was. I felt pretty silly. If my brain would only have caught up to my mouth to remind me that not everyone knew the monorail on the hospital campus as "Spencer" it would have been helpful. (Our son loves Thomas the Tank Engine, so our family affectionately calls the People Mover "Spencer," after one of the "Thomas" characters.)

And what about the time I was filling out one of the countless medical forms while at the hospital. Instead of writing my husband's first name in the blank where it asked for our son's father's name I wrote "Daddy" instead. Yeah... oops. They needed me to be a bit more specific.

So to sum up: when you are a parent of a child fighting a serious illness your brain cells are also fighting confusion and delay. But wait! The good news is two-fold:

First, you're not alone! Come on, don't even pretend like I'm the only one who has suffered from PBD... that's right, own up to it, it will make you feel better!

And the second bit of good news is that brain function does seem to return. Now that I'm five years out from my son's diagnosis I'm starting to feel those IV pumps in my brain pushing fluids again. There's hope for you too!

Now wait... what was I talking about?

Christy Cabe

Christy enjoys telling a good story in hopes that the reader will “walk away encouraged and inspired to grow in their love for God, and for others.” She has a degree in educational ministries from Huntington University, drinks coffee every morning, and lives in Fort Wayne with her husband, Kraig, and their three children. Christy recently published a memoir, “Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels.”

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