I has a flavah — the side effects of chemo


The way chemo works is that it kills off all fast-growing cells. These are targeted because cancer grows quickly. Unfortunately, with the die off of cancer cells we also get a die off of healthy, normal cells that also happen to grow fast. These include hair and taste buds, among others.

In their enthusiasm to kill my cancer cells, the adriamycin and cytoxan I was infused with last week (3/11), I saw my taste buds die off. These appear to be the first cells to go. My tongue turned white, and then the next time I looked — I think it was the next day — it was back to normal color but most foods had no flavor.

I’ve spoken with other cancer survivors who have said they sought out things that still had flavor. My friend LeAnn said McDonald’s ketchup was one thing she could eat and still flavorenjoy. I had a couple of dollar menu cheeseburgers yesterday and she was right, I could taste the ketchup and the pickle. The burger was bland (well, more bland than usual) and I could almost taste the fries. What I’ve found is that I can still enjoy foods if they are very aromatic. Smell and taste are connected, so you can enjoy the smell of the food even if it has no taste, or just a very bland flavor.

Today I discovered that salsa also still has a flavah. I made a burrito with refried beans, cheese, salsa and plain yogurt (a sour cream substitute) and I could taste most of it.

If you’re with me on this one, I’m going to suggest that we continue to experiment to find foods with flavor. Now, I know that I could lose a few pounds without harming my health, but we do need to keep our strength up, and fasting isn’t going to do that for us. I’ve been so tired since my chemo last week that it’s been hard to get my brain going on anything. If we can’t eat much, we should at least eat nutritious food.

Someone suggested that, since I can’t taste it anyway, it might be a good time to eat those things I dislike that are “good for me.”

Naw. I wouldn’t take it that far.


About Wild Rose

I’m known as Wild Rose, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 8, 2008. I had no insurance, and my income, which wasn’t large anyway, had just been cut by 2/3. This is my story, my thoughts, and the ideas that I dream up or find elsewhere. I hope that other patients and survivors find solace here.

4 responses »

  1. Hey WR, I just had to let you know that my own chemo-blasted taste buds sure enjoyed the coconut-crusted shrimp and raspberry sauce I had last night. Got any of that in the Washington outback? 🙂

  2. Yes, I think so, GH, as long as it’s not too rough. Last week, the salt from a pretzel felt really, really scratchy. But I think coconut would be OK.

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