Tuesday, October 15, 2013

After Effects

One after effect I'm noticing from cancer and treatment is that I have a new fear of growing old and frail. Months of feeling unwell seems like a preview.

I also have a fear, or maybe just a more knowledgeable fear, of developing cancer again 20 years from now. Of course, by then hopefully treatments will have progressed significantly and not involve so much collateral damage.

What can you do?

Another thing I notice: a strong empathy for anyone going through physical suffering. I see a news story about someone with a more arduous cancer battle than mine, or a marathon bombing survivor learning to live without a leg, and it brings tears to my eyes.

Meanwhile, back in the real world...

If you remember, I had a CT scan last Tuesday to determine once and for all the extent of the sinus infection. The answer? I no longer have one! The only finding was a slight swelling in the left maxillary sinus (the one behind the cheekbone). And my sinus openings are not blocked.

That scan occurred on the second-to-last day of the last course of antibiotics. Apparently the drugs and my newly recovered immune system finally did the job.

That's really great news, and my symptoms are better. Unfortunately it did not take away all of the nasal and throat mucous. There is much less of it now, but I still wake up three or four times a night to cough up junk.

The bad taste in my mouth was especially horrible at the start of last week. The worst part was apparently due to the antibiotics because within a few days after finishing the taste had improved somewhat. Unfortunately, it only improved about half way. During some times of the day, particularly the afternoon and evening, I still have a pretty disgusting taste in my mouth. I can spit all I want but the taste is somehow inherent.

Last week my tongue had a thick coating on it. I still haven't received the results of the culture that my primary care doctor's office took last week. But it may have been "antibiotic tongue" because it also cleared up significantly a few days after finishing the antibiotic. Unfortunately the decreased coating didn't take away the bad taste.

I've been mostly tube feeding for two weeks now - maybe three? Over the weekend I got tired of it and started trying to eat foods even with the bad taste. I had a couple of bites of pepperoni pizza, a couple of bites of salad. It seems like the more flavorful something is the better it works. I went and got some Thai coconut milk soup and some fried rolls. The soup broth tasted pretty good, but the texture of the mushrooms was icky.The salad actually worked pretty well - the water in the lettuce made it palatable. The shift in sense of taste was apparent in the salad dressing and in the Thai sweet and sour dipping sauce: in both of them all I could taste was the vinegar.

I've also been eating cream of wheat. And I've really been enjoying Starbucks chai lattes.

"Eating" is mostly a chore these days. There's very little enjoyment in it. Nothing tastes like it should. Plus whole categories of my favorite foods don't work at all, like bread and pasta. No donuts, sandwiches, rolls or cake. Candy also has both bad taste and bad texture.

My mom, who has been through this after saliva gland cancer in the late 70s, advises me to just eat anyway and eventually the "changed" taste will be the new normal.

That's not very encouraging. I miss the enjoyment of food.

Many patients recover their sense of taste (or most of it) and their saliva (or most of it) but it can take up to a year.


  1. Have you tried a tongue scraper?
    this is the one to get: https://www.amazon.com/Dentek-Cleaner-Scraper-Recommended-Dentists/dp/B0087BEO3I


    1. I haven't ever tried one, but someone used to always leave his hanging in the public shower where I worked.

      I did brush my tongue a few times last week but brushing back where the thickest coating was made me gag.