Friday, April 18, 2014

No peppers, please

Firstly, huge apologies for my lengthy absence. The past two weeks have been Uni holidays and as such I’ve been enjoying some other parts of Australia with my lovely fiancĂ©e, Danielle. Melbourne, Fraser Island and most of the East Coast are wonderful places – do travel there if you ever get the opportunity. Now, for a blog post…

I am an eater – I absolutely love food. I don’t think I’m a foodie (I don’t actually know what a foodie is) but I do have an enormous appetite most of the time. There is, however, one food I won’t eat. There is one vegetable whose taste I find so offensive and overwhelmingly revolting that 99% of foods I eat undergo a strict and thorough inspection before going past my lips. This vegetable, as the title of this post suggests, is the pepper.

A number of questions often arise when the topic of my aversion comes up – the most popular one being – “All peppers? But the yellow ones are so sweet!” Well as far as I’m concerned, a pepper is a pepper and if I had it my way there would be one big peppercide and I’d never have to unknowingly bite into one in a tuna wrap again.

The more important question is really “Why hate peppers?” and if you’ve been reading this blog so far, you’ll realise that an even more important question than that is “What on earth do your gastronomic likes and dislikes have to do with a blog about cancer?”

Well, I’ll answer both in one story.

Shortly after I had been diagnosed and moved up to the C2-West ward at SCH, I developed acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas and increase in pancreatic digestive enzyme levels and can often be fatal. Management involves refraining from eating). Once my pancreatitis had subsided, I started chemo. Of course, the wonderful cocktail of cytotoxic drugs that dripped into my veins minute after minute, for an entire week, came with its baggage. A few of the major side effects are well known by the general public – losing one’s hair and nausea/vomiting amongst them. (There are some less well known side effects which will come up in later posts). With my high-dose chemo regimen, the nausea and vomiting hit me hard. From the day I started chemo until, well, I don’t really remember it ending, my gastrointestinal tract was a perpetual puke production-line.

A few days into my first week of chemo, my delightful cousin Miriam very kindly brought me a portion of what she had been told was my favourite dish – sweet and sour chicken. The thing about Miriam’s sweet and sour recipe – as well intended as it had been – was that it was notably pepper-heavy. Looking back, I can’t discern whether there was actually a disproportionate number of peppers in the dish or my chemotherapy had induced changes in my taste buds which made me more sensitive to it, but all I remember from that day and all I ever think of every time I taste a pepper is the continuous bringing up of pepper-imbued stomach contents as I strained over a kidney bowl (a bowl shaped like a kidney, often used for receiving vomit etc) in my hospital bed.

This isn’t uncommon. Many patients treated with chemo known to cause extensive nausea and vomiting often end up with food aversions, which continue into remission and healthy life. It may seem insignificant and in the grand scheme of things, actually is, but it’s also something that leaves me feeling incredibly grateful and lucky. Some people are left with far worse side effects from chemotherapy than simply a [vehement] dislike of certain vegetables. For example, Cyclophosphamide, one of the drugs to feature prominently through my chemo protocol, is known to cause heart problems later on in life. Another drug named Methotrexate (about which you’ll learn more in a later post, I’m sure) can sometimes cause lung problems.*

So there we have it – why I don’t like peppers, and another example of why I count myself as a very lucky fellow. More than that, it’s an insight into some of the seemingly insignificant changes a person can undergo after chemo. Oh, and if you’re ever making me a salad, you know what not to include…

*Of course, the life-saving benefits of these drugs far outweigh the risks associated with them.

View the original article here

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