Recovery from Brain-Fog Following Chemo-Therapy

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September 23, 2015 - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi there. My name is Paula Welch and I would like to share my story with you. I am currently in the extended program of CSI at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, McLoud, OK. This program has helped me beyond what I thought possible. Here is a little of my story. I was a chronic weed smoker from the time I was 15yrs old. I was a heavy meth addict and pill popper for most of my 20’s. I went into DOC custody in Oct. 2010. I am now 44 yrs old. On Jan. 30, 2012, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Within 2 weeks, I started chemo treatment. I was on a 21-day cycle of Velcade and for 10 of those days, I took a pill called Rivlimid. I was on Velcade for 7 months and I only had 3 cycles of the Rivlimid pill. I was finished with my chemo by Aug. 2012. My next step was a stem cell transplant. During this time, I stared to notice that my reading was becoming hampered. It was difficult to do my bible studies and to prepare bible lessons for my G1 group. I would have to write my sermons completely down if I was giving a talk in church. I was also in Advanced Signs and Wonders which is a sign language group that performs to gospel songs. I was also co-facilitator to the Praise Team. It was becoming difficult to remember the signs to the songs or the steps to the dances we were doing. I could practice 2-3 hours a day and it would still be difficult to remember what I was doing. On March 5, 2013, I had a stem cell transplant at OU Medical Center. My brain felt like mush. I could not stand to look at the TV or even read my bible. It seemed like everything was getting tossed around up there. I could not keep a straight thought. I could not follow a story line to a TV show or movie that I would try to watch. The Bible, which had become my lifeline during this trial, did not make any sense. It just hurt my eyes to try and look at things. After a few days this passed, but I was still getting confused a lot and had to write anything down I wanted to remember. Later that month I was released to MBCC. I kept having a hard time with my reading and remembering. I would have to write anything down I wanted to remember. I would take me days to finish a book when it used to take me only a few hours or a day to finish one. I was discouraged and hopeless. I thought that this was how I was going to be for the rest of my life. My bible studies started to suffer, I no longer read the bible or even wanted to lead a G1 group. I kept hearing about this CSI class but knew nothing about it, but that was soon to change. In Oct. 2013, I went to a Kairos 4-day retreat. One of the ladies at my table, Charlotte M., was a tutor in CSI. One day we got to talking and she started to explain the class to me, how it would help with chemo brain, brain trauma, and the residual effects of drug abuse. Well that explained me to a “T”. I was interested to see what this class could do for me. I would take any help I could get. It had to be better than where I was at. So I signed up for the class and got right in. I started in Nov. 2013. It was slow in the beginning. I had an issue that kept me out for a few weeks but jumped right back into the program full force. Then in Feb. 2014, I ended up in the hospital for a week. I kept thinking to myself that it was no use to continue the program, but the tutors wouldn’t let me quit. They were great. Pretty soon, I was in the swing of things and mastering the lessons as they came along. I set my own personal goal of 4 masters a week and pretty soon, I was getting them. I was feeling good about myself and could tell a difference in my brain function. The biggest thrill for me was when I got my second set of test results back, and they showed that I had improved 89% across the board. My comprehension had came way up; my memory had improved along with all my other test results. Talk about a confidence boaster. I love this program class. I have taken the college entrance exam and found that I am only lacking in math, which I already knew. Math was never my strong subject anyway. I barely passed in high school. I took a PSE Math class and ended up passing with a 99%. I could not believe it. The class made sense to me and I was able to follow the instructions without getting lost. I was even helping the other students on the pod with me. I was able to recognize the pattern to how to get the problems done. Next, I was chosen for a special program called The Inside Out Program. It is sociology class out of OU. Dr. Susan Sharp taught this class. There were 15 OU students that came in plus there were 15 students chosen from the inside. It was a regular 13-week college course where we had to write journals and critiques and were graded. I was so nervous about this, but because of CSI, I was able to comprehend the material and write the papers required. We had to get up and give a final presentation at the end of class for a final grade, and I was able to do this because of the confidence I had in myself due to CSI. I would like to go on to take more college classes when the funding becomes available. I love to learn again. I am so thankful for the CSI program. My chemo brain is gone and I feel like my old self again. I am able to do my bible studies, lead my G1 group with the lessons I prepare. I am able to study my bible again and sound out the difficult words this time. I can read books again like I used to, and I love to do fill in puzzles, word searches, and some easy crossword puzzles. I believe that the CSI program needs to be incorporated in with the healing of cancer, in drug rehabs/programs and possible one day in independent and assisted living facilities for the elderly. I think it would be awesome to open this program to the public. I wish that my 74-year-old mother could work this program. I want to see more cancer survivors like myself complete this program because if you can overcome cancer you can overcome chemo brain. Thank you so much for listening to my story and how CSI has helped me. Paula Welch 629622 MBCC C3A 122 29501 Kickapoo Rd. McLoud, OK 74851