Monday, March 4, 2013

The Cancer Blog: Week 6

My Health

This blog within a blog will discuss cancer and all of my fears, hopes and expectations for a positive outcome—full and complete recovery. In addition, I plan to throw in some latest medical research. All cancer patients are interested, to some degree, in research and the latest medical findings; I am no exception. 


Beef Brisket: The smell of a juicy roast beef brisket, with potatoes and vegetables, 
only improves its taste. But chemo does odd things to the human senses and the appetite.
Photo Credit: Evan Sklar/Getty
Courtesy: Esquire

When you undergo chemotherapy, you essentially receive cocktail of pharmacological medications that travel through your veins and infuse into the body, targeting the cancer cells, but also hitting good cells—it's a type of collateral damage!—and thus side effects are both expected and normative. I have noted a number of side effects, most of which last for the first few days after treatment, and diminish afterward. These include nausea, tingling of hands and mouth when in contact with cold liquids, constipation, and general tiredness.

Nausea, on the other hand, persists in some form, although still manageable. This, of course, affects the appetite, since eating is a matter of the senses and over-all sense of well-being. If you are tired, it's also hard to build an appetite, let alone sit at a table and eat. This explains to a great degree why unwell persons, often the elderly, often fail to thrive; they don't have much of an appetite, and thus they don't eat and obtain the necessary nourishment their body and mind requires. It becomes a battle to overcome the desire not to eat, as strange as that sounds to some. And yet it's very real and problematic.

Now, I have not thankfully reached that point, and I hope that I never will. And yet I do notice that I can't enjoy my food with the same relish as I would like. Despite being on the lanky side, I have always enjoyed eating, trying out various international cuisines and allowing my well-defined senses of taste and smell to help me appreciate the meal. Eating in my estimation and thinking ought to be an enjoyable experience; it remains so in my case, but albeit with diminished enjoyment. The good news is that I have gained all but 4 kg of the weight that I lost as a result of my colon surgery, and now weigh 67 kg.

There is also the matter of drinking cold liquids, which I must assiduously avoid for the  first week after chemo; the tingling in my throat and lips makes it undesirable to drink a refreshing glass of orange juice, or a glass of mineral water, or anything else cold. So, I drink hot drinks like tea, coffee, and even hot orange juice, which has a remarkably different taste. I have not yet tried warm beer, and I doubt that I will; the thought makes me nauseous.

I now mark my time, knowing that this is all part of the expected outcome, and it is only temporary. My last session (no. 12) of chemo treatment is around mid-July; afterward I plan a party to celebrate.

A Cold Glass of Beer: Such a refreshing frothy drink will be welcome in July, 
when my chemo treatments are expected to end; it's something to look forward to, 
with great enjoyment.


  1. In China, our beer wasn't warm, but it wasn't refrigerated. I enjoyed it. It was cool.
    Nevertheless, I hope you soon will be able to enjoy all sorts of foods at your favorite temperature. Best wishes for a speedy and total recovery.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I am glad that you enjoyed the cool beer, but I wonder if you know why the beer was not refrigerated. Is it a matter of custom, or something else?

    2. Beer antedates refrigerators. Refrigerators were not all that common in my China days. I guess the cold beer custom is an innovation.


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