Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chemo Side Effects - Taste Changes

So, it is my third day after chemo. Stomach problems have been mild and cleared up with the meds and healthy eating. Yesterday, I did get a headache, but I always get a headache. An imitrex pill and a nap helped. I felt a bit underwater and out of it. It's kind of like having a hangover without drinking any alcohol, or having the flu without being infected. I'm fine today - I'm a bit achy but nothing really important.

So far, the weirdest side effect has been the taste changes. Some might remember that I had my lingual nerve damaged in a dental treatment. It has not healed yet (maybe not ever at this point) and my taste sensation has been down by about 90% ever since. I have a strip on the left side of my tongue that still works but that's all.

So, I figured that whatever weird taste changes everybody else on my chemo regimen described wouldn't happen to me.

Since I couldn't taste anyway, you know?

Well, I was wrong. This taste distortion apparently goes directly from food molecules to brain neurons, bypassing those pesky tastebuds. Of which I don't have.

Everybody describes the taste as metallic. That doesn't begin to go far enough.

It tastes like you are a dumb little kid in the frozen north, standing by the side of the road, who was dared by mean kids to put your tongue on a frozen metal light pole that had recently been scorched by fire after a nasty traffic accident. You put your tongue on the dirty black of the pole and it freezes there. The kids laugh and run off, and you are stuck there, tasting the cold metal, the dirty, blackened soot from the remnants of the fire. You gather your courage and rip your tongue off that pole, and the bleeding starts and you pass out. You wake up, dried iron-blood, soot, and metal taste in your mouth, just as tender-hearted homeless guy comes by. He feels sorry for you and offers you a drink, but he's drunk so he hands you the wrong bottle and it's warm, pissy, backwashed beer. You take a sip and gag, and he realizes his mistake and gives you a bottle of water instead. This is slimy water that he's taken from a creek somewhere, and after you take a mossy sip, you see tadpole droppings and green slime in the bottle.

Your mouth on chemo tastes like metal, dried iron blood, soot, pissy-spit beer, slimy, mossy water with bum-backwash and tadpole shit in it.

And that's with lingual nerve damage.

I feel so sorry for you who get the full effect.



  1. Hi - I am with you on this one. Had number 5 chemo last week - a new stronger one - and have had a sore swollen tongue and really sore gums ever since. Everything tastes of cardboard - in particular all the things I love - bread, pasta ... even pizza!

    It's crap .. that is all I can say!!

    P x

  2. I had the cardboard food issue too. Many food smells made me (more) nauseous. Scallions drove me crazy. For some reason, I had to leave the room if someone was eating raw scallions. I wrongly attempted a glass of wine at the beginning of chemo and now can tell you I know what battery acid tastes like. I recommend a variation of the BRAT diet during chemo - nice and bland and easy on the tummy.

    However it all goes away and your favorite foods taste like your favorite foods again.


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