Saturday, March 24, 2012

An Overworked Sniffer

I’ve always had a fairly acute sense of smell.

I can smell the milk two days before it goes sour. I can smell the garbage molding the day before anyone else. I end up with migraine headaches based on smell (and the whole world demands that they smell ‘good’ – so everything is perfumed).

I recall smells too – the smell of the hallway behind Centennial Hall at Augustana has remained the same smell since I first encountered it in 1966. The smell of Oscar and Ruth’s upstairs bathroom (smoke, an old bathtub filled with hot water, the hint of people). The smell of the basement at Budlong School – a never to be forgotten mix of aromas: hot chocolate on cold mornings for the school patrol; the scents from the home economics rooms; a smell of little kid sweat.

The toughest part of this round of chemo has been the persistence of smell.
As I said, there seems to be a requirement that the world be perfumed. Everything is scented: the soap in the hospital bathroom, the hand sanitizer, the nurses with their various perfumes, the doctors with theirs. One particularly pungent individual – for me anyways – is the guy from infusion therapy who comes to check my Hickman catheter. It’s a woody smell, one that most people might find pleasant, but one that immediately begins to awaken headaches for me.
The smell of the food: The hospital feeds forty on this floor alone, so the food wagon is constantly on the floor. It’s all overcooked and over salted (surprisingly), and there is always a pervasive food smell lingering on the floor. My digestion has been hideous this treatment, and the smell of the food has not aided the digestion. I don’t want to eat anything.

The smell of the room: Housekeeping comes in sort of daily. But my linens haven’t been changed since I’ve been in the hospital, not even rearranged. I have to ask for towels. In other words, the linens are all soaked with a me smell. Not a pleasant one. I want to get home, get all the clothes, particularly the robe, in the laundry. I wish we could hang them outside afterwards so that they could get that fresh dried in the sun smell, but that’s not likely, since I won’t get out of this place until 2 pm at the earliest.

The smell of the chemo-therapy: This time, more than any other time, I noticed the smell of the chemo-drugs. I suspect it’s “the red devil” that gives off this smell. “The red-devil” is what one of the nurses calls adriamycin, one of the two drugs in my cocktail. The problem with the smell is that it gets into everything: my excrement, my urine, the pores of my body. I smell like the drug. It is a strong smell and I think that everyone else smells me too. Maybe they don’t. But I do. It literally smells red. Not blood red, but red, a warm and unpleasant red. It is a smell that will haunt me to my dying day. I want to get rid of it, but I know I have to go through it for three more treatments.

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