Update. You know, health and stuff. And food.

So, the good news is that the chemotherapy is holding the cancer in check for now. Next scan in a month.

The bad news is that the chemo is hard. And the worse news is that after this, when this fails, things will get harder. Eventually, we will have to make some very difficult decisions, and I’m not sure how to do that. That’s for the future, though. Right now, the cancer is being held and the chemotherapy goes on.

It’s hard. Not too hard, but hard. I have four or five days of lurking at the bottom of a dark pool, like a pike. I might well snap, so don’t ask difficult questions, like “what do you want for dinner?”. Or present me with more than one task or thought or idea at a time. Just let me read mild books and rest. Week two is not too bad, week three is pretty much back to normal. My new normal – a slower, plumper, less fit normal.

What’s the hardest thing? I think one of the hardest things is never quite feeling comfortable in my body. I’m losing a bit of sensation in my fingers and toes, and that feels weird. I have lymphoedema in my left arm, so my left hand can get very puffy – and that feels weird. I have a sore mouth. A dry, sore mouth. A mouth so dry that I wake up in the night and have to peel my tongue away from the roof of my mouth. And nothing tastes right.

It’s hard to describe, but if you drink tea AND coffee – and like both of them – you must have experienced the strange thing – being given a mug full of nondescript brown liquid and assuming it is tea (or coffee), taking a mouthful and finding that it’s vile, and then realising it’s actually coffee (or tea). At the moment, everything I eat is coffee when I was expecting tea, or tea when I was expecting coffee.

It’s really quite depressing, because I love food. And I just realised that I have reacted to this by becoming almost obsessional about food. This cycle I have read The Gastronomical Me by M F K Fisher (and had hard-core nostalgic fantasies about provinical France), Appetite by Nigel Slater, M K F Fisher again (With Bold Knife and Fork), and Towpath – which is a book of recipes and stories from a canalside cafe in London that I have, and probably will never visit. I have noted down recipes and planned meals and looked up local restaurants, and made a big lasagne for my wider family, all the while knowing that nothing will taste the way that I imagine it will, or even the way it smells.

My mouth is sore right now. I ate strawberries last night and had to push through the pain to do it. Generally, I can manage frozen fruit (grapes, blueberries, little cubes of melon, a bag of pineapple chunks), but fresh fruit is hard. Savoury is good. Salt is salt is salt. Nice and predictable. Bitter is cranked up to the max – and I generally like a bitter drink. Tea is awful. Coffee, so weak it’s an embarrassment, and mint tea are my hot drinks. Or just a cup of hot water, which is easier to drink than cold water.

And then, in the last three or four days before the cycle re-starts, I guzzle – coffee, cake, G&T, a glass of wine (though I’m now a white drinker, not a red drinker), all the veggie stuff that gives me stomach cramps in week two, spices, everything. Everything.


About sarahsouthwest

I'm now in my early 50s. I started writing again as a way of exploring the world, and feel that over the last 2 years I have really grown as a writer. By day I work with children and young people with mental health difficulties. I juggle my own two children, my work, my writing practice, generally managing to keep all the balls up in the air.
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6 Responses to Update. You know, health and stuff. And food.

  1. Ms. Liz says:

    ‘Towpath’ must be an interesting book! I’m glad for the good news Sarah, and wish you didn’t have to face the hard things. Hope the soreness of the mouth goes away real quick.

  2. pennygadd51 says:

    Wonderfully written, and harrowing to read. Thank you.

  3. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  4. Sherry Marr says:

    It is good to hear from you, Sarah. I am glad the cancer is in check, and hate that you are going through so much. You do it with such grace. The mouth sores and taste factor must be very difficult.

  5. I second Sherry – I’m glad the cancer is in check.

    Thank you so much for sharing all of this, Sarah.

    Much love,

  6. foodinbooks says:

    Glad you are holding your own but so terribly sorry about the side effects. As a fellow foodie, I feel for you so much. I hope the mouth soreness goes away soon and that you can soon enjoy the taste and flavors of the foods you love. Sending you positive healing vibes, Sarah.

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