Saturday, June 04, 2011

Needs more salt/sugar

I haven't posted in a while because, it seemed, there wasn't much to report. But that's not actually true.

My skin has healed up, and there's now just a heightened redness on my cheek to show where the radiation was focused. (Oddly, I've also lost some sensation on my face; I can feel my hand on my chin, but not the detail of my cat's fur).

My mouth is still pretty dry, and I carry a water bottle everywhere, a little obsessively, which makes me feel like Linus with his security blanket.

I'm tired, but less so each day, and I'm finding small projects around the house and in the garden to keep me active.

But on to important matters: how are the taste buds?

They're still mostly sleeping, it seems, but waking gradually. I'm more aware of certain flavors, though they're still dim, as if they're in the next room.

Sweet and salty stil do not register at all. I can sprinkle sugar right on my tongue and get nothing but the feel of the crystals as they slowly dissolve (very slowly, given my lack of saliva).

And I remembered something a friend said after he had finished cancer treatment and was just getting his taste buds back: that he could taste something and recognize it — oh, that's chocolate — but the recognition was not enough to make him crave a second bite.

At the time, I only understood what he meant in theory. Now I'm entering that stage, it makes much more sense. And I realize how much our enjoyment of food is related to how sweet or salty it is.

So I've been trying different foods to see what registers: a bite of cheese here, a strawberry there. Yesterday I tried a salted cashew. I definitely got a (dim) nutty flavor, but of course no salt. And unsalted nuts are just not as tasty as salted.

I also had coffee with a friend, and tasted a little of her slice of chocolate cake. Yes, there was a hint of chocolate, but without the pull of sweetness that fills the mouth and draws you back to the plate for another forkful.

(My oncologist has predicted that it could take four months — four! Months! — before I can completely taste chocolate again. I hope to prove him wrong.)

It's more than just the simple on/off of sweet or not. Flavors are one-dimensional, devoid of detail or subtlety. Load something with fresh herbs if you wish, or create a complex marinade, but don't expect me to react with more than, "Is this chicken? I think it's chicken."

None of this has dampened my interest in food, thankfully, or my desire to cook and eat. Next week I'm trying out an apple-maple-bacon cake for The Boy's birthday; I'm also waiting for a chance to try out these beautiful Chinese tea eggs.

And I just have to keep reminding myself that this is a temporary state. One day, I'm sure, I'll be halfway through eating something and suddenly realize I can taste everything.

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Blogger Ana said...

wow it's wonderful to read about somebody as strong as you! and your writing is so honest. I hope to hear more!

3:52 PM  

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