Wednesday, August 6, 2008


One of the questions every medical professional asks when he or she is checking to see how you are is what your appetite is. Now, this is a question I haven't been able to have a standard answer to this summer. First of all, when I was on all the dexamethazone in June, my appetite was voracious. I could not eat enough, even after things started to taste at only about 30%. I could imagine that it was tasty, because it had been tasty to me in the past, and so the fact that the radiation had kind of canceled that out didn't slow me down at all. I mean, I ate a lot. I put on about 10 pounds that month. Part of the weight may have just been bloating (water retention? I don't really know the mechanics of it), but part of it was definitely all the extra meals I was eating.

In the hospital, my appetite was not good. I was hungry, but not for anything they had to offer me (although the vegetarian vegetable soup was at least tasty, and they do try. There is an extensive room service menu—they don't just feed you the standard hospital fare. Nevertheless . . .). Part of the problem there, I believe, was that my mouth and throat had just been injured by the intubation and possibly all the drugs, and so textures were difficult. I couldn't make myself eat bread at all, meats were unpleasant, lentils even were too mealy. All I really could eat was Amy's organic soups that we had nurses heat for us (and a notable bowl of tortilla soup that a friend brought) and Jamba Juice smoothies that Ian would bring and divide in two. I would eat one half fresh, then the other half, which had been sitting in the patient freezer, the next day (heated for 45 seconds in the microwave and with a spoon because it's almost impossible to get that perfect drinkable consistency back). I got enough food, and survived, but it was tough sometimes. And tedious to eat soup in bed, hunched over a too-tall and not close enough table. For breakfast I usually ordered yoghurt or oatmeal and a "seasonal fresh fruit cup". The yoghurt was Dannon and also had weird texture issues (a weird papery-floury dryness at the back of the throat), and the oatmeal was just bland but at least moist enough for me to eat. The "seasonal fresh fruit cup" was a travesty of a "seasonal" anything. When I was lucky, I got four fruits: cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple and three red grapes. I'm assuming they're in "season" year 'round. The last morning, however (all the more reason to go home), my cup included a total of four pieces of fruit, and three of them were pineapple and the other honeydew, by far my least favorite of the four. My first morning at home we had fruit cup from the Essential Baking Company with apple, blueberry, grapefruit, honeydew, and pineapple—all of it organic, all of it chopped up that morning. It was a completely different experience.

Anyway, I noticed last night eating Barcelona! at the Hi-Life with visiting friends that I finally seem to have gotten my taste and my textural appreciation back. I've been eating everything but soup since getting home 10 days ago, and it's finally all tasting good. I had some toast points with spicy sauce last night and the toast didn't make the back of my mouth cringe. I had some crackers and cheese this afternoon and enjoyed the entire chewing process.

But, sense of taste, while important for food enjoyment, doesn't actually say anything about my appetite, which is a little odd. I'm assuming my stomach shrank while I was on the feeding tube; at any rate, I cannot overeat. I've been eating about four times a day since getting home because I don't like to go to bed hungry and I'm generally starving by 10:30pm, but I can't shove in more than a certain amount at any one sitting. I'm not upset by this, mind you. I certainly am happy to have some very natural and non-psychological restraints put on my tendency to eat more than I need. But it is a strange thing to get used to. Last night at dinner, for example, I got full—slightly too full—and even though the two desserts we six chose to share were exactly what I would've picked out myself, I couldn't even eat one bite. Not one bite. I tell you, it's bizarre.

But, my appetite does seem to be good. I get hungry, I eat a well-balanced organic diet, and I enjoy it. I don't remember having a lot of mouth or taste issues when I was on chemo seven years ago, so I'm hoping that now that the radiation issues seem to have resolved themselves, I'll be back to relatively normal eating.


Chiara said...

Hey, I had the Barcelona menu at the Hi-Life last night too! I was all over the spicy goat cheese thingy--I'm glad that your taste is back to where you can appreciate such yumminess.

Anna K. said...

Dessert first next time!