Thursday, March 1, 2018

The End Of Cravings

I no longer crave foods I used to love. I miss some of them, but I no longer have any desire to eat them. It's easy when they make you nauseous. But before I explore that further, I should tell you about my visit with my hospice doctor.

I met my doctor face to face for the first time on Tuesday. She's very gracious and kind. It was a delight to be with her. She was able to reassure me about a major concern I had. We've now increased the dosage of my nausea medication twice, and added new nausea meds to the mix. My nausea is a symptom of bone metastasis. Those bone mets keep growing all the time. It seems likely to me that, as the cancer in my bones spreads at an ever-increasing rate, so will the nausea it causes.

I had a scenario playing in my head that involved my nausea spiking to unbearable and uncontrollable levels, until I can no longer keep anything down or get out of bed. One where I simply waste away because I can't eat. Short of paralysis from a spinal compression, this is a worst-case scenario for me. The doctor dispelled my nightmare scenario with one sentence: "You'll die before that happens." Meaning the cancer will get me before the nausea does, and they'll be able to control it until then, one way or another.

This is comforting to me. It's very important to me that my symptoms be at least somewhat under control, as much as possible, until I die. It's not shocking for me to hear my doctor say I'll die before my symptoms overwhelm me. It's reassuring.

I've mentioned several foods I've had to give up in past posts. It started with coffee. Then I had to give up chocolate. Then sweets in general. The next one was cheese. That was a hard one. Most recently, a favorite Vietnamese soup called Pho had to be crossed off the list because it's made with beef broth. Some of you know my wife and I stopped eating beef decades ago. When you don't eat beef, your body loses the ability to digest it. Until recently, beef broth didn't bother me, and I was able to enjoy this delicious soup. But things have changed.

I had some Pho last week, and was sick for the rest of the evening and most of the next day. So while I will miss being able to eat this soup that was a favorite of mine, I am no longer tempted to try it again. Once I get sick on something, I never want it again.

Most of us are familiar with this phenomenon. We eat or drink something, it makes us nauseous, perhaps causes us to vomit, and we can't stand the smell of it for the rest of our lives. I had this happen with a favorite brand of canned chili in the 90's. I never went near it again. I won't even tell you about my experience with whiskey in the early 80's, but it was bad. I never wanted whiskey again.

Pregnant women experience this. Things they once loved are no longer allowed in the house, at least until after their nausea passes. But in my case, it's permanent. Every food that's been crossed off my list will remain absent from my diet for the rest of my shortened life.

But it's okay. Just like that canned chili and Jack Daniels, I have no desire to eat the things that make me nauseous. I may miss those things, but I'm not tempted to eat them. Do I miss chocolate? You'd better believe it. But am I tempted to go to my favorite chocolate shop and get some dark chocolate clusters? Not on your life. I know what would happen if I ate them.

The hardest one is cheese. You don't realize how pervasive cheese is in so many of the foods we love until you have to give it up. But am I tempted to eat a hunk of cheese? No way. I made an egg sandwich on a bagel for breakfast this morning, and couldn't put cheese on it. There was one moment of regret when I realized this, but I had no problem leaving cheese off the sandwich. I woke up nauseous this morning, as I do many mornings. I knew what my day would be like if I melted cheese over that egg.

I have a big bag of M&Ms in my pantry, left over from Christmas. I have a weakness for plain M&Ms. But I'll never finish that bag, nor will I ever open it again. It's not even appetizing to me.

What do I crave now? Celery, baby carrots, and strawberries. Boring, right? But right now, when I want a snack, or need to take pills, that's what I want. Toasted bagels are good too. I need something in my stomach most of the time now, because any type of stomach discomfort, including hunger, feels like nausea. Heartburn also feels like nausea.

The good news is, if I wake up with my nausea under control, I can still have some coffee once in a while. But only if I wake up feeling good. Those days are in the minority. As time goes on, my bad days outnumber my good days.

I know I'm nowhere near the end of the list of foods I'll have to give up. From what I hear, the closer you get to death, the fewer foods you'll eat, until you pretty much stop eating completely. But at least I don't crave the foods I have to give up. That's a mercy. If I did, it would make this much harder. So I'm thankful I don't want the foods that make me nauseous. They all sound like that can of chili to me now. When it comes to cravings, I'll stick with what sounds good to me. It's the only way to get through the day. #waroncancer #bearingwitness


  1. Hello. I've been reading your blog for a little while. It breaks my heart because your journey is so similar to the one my father went down. Only, he never shared how he felt. He was very stoic and never wanted any of us to worry. My heart breaks for you and your family, and for my dad who must have suffered so much.

  2. Mark, thank you for sharing your difficulties. We are with you, trying to imagine the pain you’re going through. Know that we love you, and are thinking about you. Jenny and Jamie