When Certain Foods Bring Back Bad Memories

I reached for the box of Cheerios, pulled my hand back, and then took the box down.

It was the only cereal available at my friend’s house. I wanted to eat cereal for breakfast. So I went ahead and ate it.

Why the hesitation?

Because Cheerios were among the foods that I ate in the hospital when I couldn’t keep much down. They bring me back to a time I’d rather forget, the three and a half months in the hospital after my fourth stem cell transplant.

Chicken pot pie also brings me back.

Hospital food deserves its reputation

It was one of the few dishes I could eat when I was in what my doctor called The Big House – Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Hospital food deserves its reputation. It is not generally good. I’m OK with Cheerios, but I don’t want to ever eat another chicken pot pie. The smell actually makes me feel sick.

It was 10 years ago. After the transplant, I went into a coma. When I woke up, I couldn’t talk or eat. I got nutrition from a feeding tube. When the tube came out, I had no appetite. Foods with little taste were the easiest to get down.

I drank a lot of vanilla milk shakes with a scoop of protein. One came on my tray at almost every meal.

For some reason, this doesn’t turn me off. Maybe it’s because I like ice cream. I also associate them with good memories. During my first pregnancy 32 years ago, I wasn’t gaining enough weight. The doctor told me to drink shakes. That was fine with me.

When food triggers memories

In his novel “In Search of Last Time,” the French author Marcel Proust describes how a Madeleine (a French cookie) brings him back to his youth. When he eats one as an adult, he remembers his aunt giving him small Madeleines dipped in tea. The so-called “Proustian memory” is a good one.

I can’t think of the similar word to describe what happens when an odor or taste sparks a bad cancer memory specifically. Cancerian?

A bad food memory for me, not a cancer one though, dates all the way back to seventh grade.

Our English teacher told us to write about restaurant jargon. I went to several restaurants in the vicinity of my mother’s jewelry store. It was in New York, on Lexington Avenue, between 86th and 87th streets. I sat at the counter in nearby restaurants and took notes when the wait staff called out an order.

At the last restaurant, I ate rice pudding.

When I went home, I was sick to my stomach.

To this day, I can’t stand looking at, or smelling, rice pudding. It wasn’t funny at the time, but at least now I can laugh about it.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.

Community Poll

How has blood cancer impacted you financially? (select all that apply)