Ron Sparks Solution Architect, Author, Poet

Did Chemo Brain Influence My Decision?

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I finished chemotherapy in January 2009. If you’ve read my blogs to date, you know that chemotherapy was much more traumatizing to my body than I thought it would be – but I always assumed the effects would be temporary and that once I was over the toxic side-effects, it would be done.In fact, I atssumed that radiation therapy would be my biggest challenge to overcome in the long term. For the most part this has been true; I have a hard mass of scar tissue under my skin on my neck. I have much less saliva than I used to have. I have difficulty swallowing because of the scar tissue in my throat.Since I came back to work, though, I have noticed some mental changes as well. I am not the same man I used to be. There is some “fuzziness” in my thinking. I am not able to speak as quickly as I used to – the thoughts that were always on the tip of my tongue, fighting to get out, come at a more leisurely pace now. I am not quite as quick-witted as I used to be. I have to be more deliberate and thorough in my actions; I tend to get more easily distracted and have a more difficult time focusing on multiple things at one time.I have, in short, post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment, or chemo brain for short. According to wikipedia, about 20-30% of people suffer from post-chemotherapy impairment. Some people have severe cases; I think I have a rather mild case. Still, I definitely have some form of chemo brain.

I also notice that my emotional responses to things are different than they used to be. I am not sure if I can pin that completely on chemo brain, though. Going through cancer treatments and rehabilitation changes a man; my emotional outlook may simply be a reflection of who I am as a man now. I am certainly more humble than I used to be.

There is one troubling issue though. I gave notice to my job last week. Tomorrow is my last day. I have been with this company for over three years. I met my fiance here. I love this company, the culture, and what it stands for. It’s got amazing benefits, brilliant people, and a lot of chaos and energy.

I got the offer to become the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of a small company here in town. It’s a great offer, but not substantially better than where I am now. The biggest benefit, for me, is that I’ll be flying back and forth to DC frequently and I’ll be working with a long-time friend, surfing buddy, and business associate. I’ll be very entrepreneurial, will define the standards for a company’s technology strategy from the ground-up, and it is a step up in my career. Being a CTO is pretty much what I have always aspired to be, in this particular career path.

The decision to leave was much, much, much harder than any other professional decision I have ever had to make. Never before have I struggled with a career decision as I have with this one. I had a hard time separating logical reasons to stay or leave from emotional ones.

Emotionally, I have friends here, people who aren’t that fond of me, a history or success, and some failures. This company was here for me as I went through my cancer treatments. I met my fiance here. I have a lot of history here.  I have a lot of friends here.

Logically, the chaos, while getting better every day, has put a lot of gray hair on my head – and I know my chemo-brain is impacting my work. being a CTO will be a stretch at first, but it’s what I have wanted.  But, the CEO of my current company is the most visionary person I have ever met; I’ve never seen anyone dream bigger, and motivate an entire company to put it into practice.

I really struggled with that – emotional versus logical; pros versus cons. The chemo fog in my brain prevents me from seeing this as clearly as I would like; so I don’t really have that 100% certainty I have always had to date that I am doing the right thing.

Don’t get me wrong; I am intelligent, hard-working, and will always land on my feet. I am not uncertain that I will fail or that this decision will harm me or my family for years to come. I am good at what I do and will succeed.

But here I am, a day away from closing one door to open another, and I wonder; how much did Chemo Brain affect my decision to change jobs?

About the author

Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on Amazon.com.

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  • I can attest to your statement that this was one of the hardest decisions. I know this new opportunity is going to be great and give you a chance to grow and be successful. However, you will be missed personally and professionally. What you brought cannot be replaced.Love you!

By Ron Sparks
Ron Sparks Solution Architect, Author, Poet

Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on Amazon.com.

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A man of many passions, I lay claim to a myriad of interests and hobbies. Among them, I am an amateur astronomer, an avid motorcycle rider, a whiskey aficionado, a (poor) surfer, a scuba diver, a martial artist, a student of philosophy, a proponent of critical thinking, a technologist, an entrepreneur, a cancer survivor, and I harbor a lifelong love of science fiction and fantasy. Feel free to strike up a conversation on the social networks below.

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