Thursday, January 11, 2007

The smell of cancer

Long after my hair grows, the acid reflux goes away, I lose some pounds, parts of cancer will stay with me. For some people, the smell of baking forever reminds them of their grandmother. Lilies remind others of weddings. For me, there will always be the smell of cancer. Certain smells that create such an immediate visceral reaction that can only come from the connection to that crappy part of my life.

I went to the hospital yesterday for bloodwork. The hospital. Man, it gets me every time. I am immediately transported to the chemo room or the radiation bed. It's like walking in a door and walking into 4 months ago.

Alcohol pads. The smell of alcohol swabs makes me almost gag, even now. Alcohol swabs came out before any shot, chemo or port draw. Especially the port. They would crack this wand like thing that dispensed the alcohol. Then they'd essentially shove a pushpin into your artery. The smell of alcohol is so ingrained with cancer in my mind that I react, even when out of the hospital. On my big cancer walk, they had disposable hand wipe things outside of all the port-a-potties. The first morning, I walked out of the toilet and Hope handed me the packet. I opened it and BAM! the smell hits me like a truck. The smell of alcohol swabs. My mouth started to water, I felt woozy. More than anything, I just wanted it away from me. No more potty wipes for me. I'll take my hand sanitizer instead.

When I first began treatment and we realized I would be driving pretty much every week to my parents, Alan decided to be the cutest husband ever. He put together this package of fancy shampoo, lotion, bath gel - all my standard necessities. "To keep at your parents. So you don't have to always be packing stuff." He was the cutest. Now granted, after about a month, I didn't need the shampoo anymore. So in a box of random crap it all went. And somehow it got moved to Hotlanta with us. Fast forward to recently, when we ran out of shampoo. My husband grabs the pretty aromatherapy shampoo he had purchased months earlier. So there I am, in the shower... reach for the fancy shampoo. Open the top and ARGH! The smell knocks me back. The mint is too much. I can't use it. All of the sudden, I'm back in my parent's shower in their basement, trying not to get my surgery site wet. I'm washing the blue stuff off my arm. I'm feeling light-headed from the medication. I shut the bottle and haven't used it since.

I hope, with the passage of time, these memories will fade. Until then, they are reminders of what I've been through. At least now I can throw the bottles away.


David J. Hahn said...

Oh man, I still can't take the smell of alcohol pads. I can't even take the smell of that antibacterial Purel stuff that has alcohol in it. YECH.

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