Chemo is tough on your digestive system and there are so many reactions. Some are in pain and nauseous all the time. Others have no reaction at all. I was somewhere in between. My tummy was not happy and was in a constant state of indigestion most of 2022. I stopped getting hungry and lost nearly all of my tastebuds, all except sour and thankfully, I could still smell. In fact, I think my sense of smell become more acute too! Like a new superpower, I knew every time my Dad bought his favourite Hokkien Mee from Circuit Road Market home.
I learnt that without tastebuds it is very easy to eat healthier. Didn’t matter what you put in front of me, I could put it in my mouth, chew and swallow; up to the point where the state of indigestion would protest. This meant I didn’t eat much and was on a schedule like a baby, every couple of hours, my wonderful family would put a little bowl of something for me to eat.
I always knew my Mom and sister were excellent chefs but they really outdid themselves to entice me to eat more. My sister played with textures and aromas. My Mom modified old favourites with more tart and no sugar. Even my SIL, Jenna got into it and made this amazing dish that smelled wonderful and had so much texture, it was so fun to eat. This reminds me, I have to get her to recreate this when my tastebuds are back.
And nope, my tastebuds aren’t back yet. It’s been about a year of quite a surreal experience. When I tell people I’ve lost my tastebuds, they screw their face up and look at me sympathetically. I totally get it but after the year, I can honestly say it isn’t as bad as I always thought it would be to have no taste. I learnt smells are about 80% of taste and I’ve developed a way of eating where you chew and take deep breaths at the same time. The next time we’re having a meal and I look weird, it means my tastebuds aren’t back and I’m tasting my food! I also realised textures are very important to eating too and I love chewy textures. Bread, rice, al dente pasta and noodles. Like with my Mom’s Nasi Ulam, it was my go to and one of my favourite to have. The blend of spices, rice and veggies gave me a complete experience when it comes to eating on chemo.
Chemo tummy made me slow down when I was eating. Something I never did before cancer, I was the shovel food as quickly as you can type of eater. Slow down, please is what I remind myself when I’m eating now. I take a breath as I chew and appreciate all the parts of the meal. Now I have to practice that with everything else in life. Slow down and do one thing at a time. I’m not quite sure if I can check this lesson off quite yet. I have a hunch I need to practice slowing down ALOT more.