A few months ago, I came home from work and discovered that Mark had lost his day-to-day memories from the previous two weeks. He remembered who he was and he remembered me and the kids, but he didn’t know what the date was or what he had done that day.
Over and over, as I was getting ready to take him to the hospital, he kept asking me the same question, “What are my symptoms?” I repeatedly explained that he’d lost his memory, but the answer didn’t stick in his mind. “What are my symptoms?” He asked again and again.
On the drive to the doctor’s office, Mark’s question changed, “Did Luke call you at work?” He had grasped his memory loss and was trying to piece together how I found out. “Yes, Luke called me at work. He was concerned about you.” I took a deep breathe to calm myself against the rise of panic. Was my life changing right before my eyes? Was this the extent of the relationship with my husband for the rest of our lives? Was my husband going to have a stroke right here, right now and die? Or be in the hospital for months, recovering? “Did Luke call you at work?” Mark’s repetitive question pulled me out of my thoughts and I answered him once again.
I thought about my own doctor’s appointment in two days time. I was going to be tested for uterine cancer. What if Mark has a stroke and I have cancer? How will we care for our children? How will we work? Pay bills? The car needs new brakes. What will we do?
“Did Luke call you at work?” Deep breathe, Colleen. I had to control the shaking that was starting from the core of my body. Just one step at a time, Colleen. Just one step at a time.
“Yes, Luke called me at work.”
When the doctor told us that Mark had amnesia, I thought he was kidding. This had to be some kind of joke. Isn’t “amnesia” just an over-used plot twist in soap operas like Days of Our Lives? Apparently not. Transient Global Amnesia is caused by strenuous activity (Mark had been working out) or a significant change in blood flow.
By the next day, Mark had recovered the previous two weeks of memory, but eight hours of the previous day will be forever lost to him. Because of his amnesia, he never even made those memories.
In the course of those few short hours before we knew he had amnesia, I was planning how to care for my husband with half of his body compromised from a stroke. I was planning his funeral. I was imagining how I would mother my children as I went through chemotherapy and radiation. I started to plan my own funeral.
When my test results came back negative a few days after my test, I was struck by how much energy I put into my fears. While the symptoms Mark and I presented may have looked like a stroke and cancer, neither of us were ever remotely close to having a stroke or cancer. It was all in my mind.
For the next few weeks I was euphorically happy. I was extremely content with life. I felt like I was living mindfully – full of awareness for the beauty and sacredness of each day.
Every now and then I allow myself to be sucked into the day-to-day mindlessness that had consumed me prior to Mark’s amnesia and my cancer scare. This is my own brand of amnesia, where I forget to hold the gifts each day has to offer. But I try to remember that these are the Days of Our Lives and I wanted to live each one to the fullest.
For information about Transient Global Amnesia, click here