Project Spew Away

There was no taste to food anymore. I chewed slowly trying to find it. The texture was revolting without taste. I had already lost 4 dress sizes in three months and was forcing myself to eat something, anything.

I picked at the food on my plate and forced a smile to my husband across the table. "It's like ashes", I told him. A fine paste of ashes and I was forcing myself to swallow. Disgusting. Not his cooking, oh no. I could see the effort put into the comfort food. Soups, stews and salads made with care and patience. The cooking smells only made it worse. I opened the window.

Chemo is messing with my appetite

And then it happened. I couldn't control it. Racing to the bathroom I made it to the toilet and flushed away the remnants of what should have been a good meal. This daily oral chemotherapy was taking its toll and I was not one to give in easily. I loved food. It's one of the great gifts of living and I was losing it.

In the months to follow, I found foods that my stomach tolerated. A handful of pistachios here, a few crackers there, a bowl of rice and maybe some toast and tea. I worked up to soup and then stews again.

Slowly I could taste more than ashes and those cooking smells became inviting again. My oncologist moved me from Gleevec to Sprycel and my stomach was slowly tolerating the new regimen. I got cocky.

It's not contagious. It's chemo.

I was at work and I added a yogurt to my lunch for the first time in a long time. I was brave that day. My stomach responded to the dairy. It rebelled into a volcano of nausea. I ran to the bathroom and with a force stronger than my own I heaved into the toilet. It was loud.

My coworker passed outside the door, "If you're sick you shouldn't be here. It could be contagious," she said. I yelled back between heaves, "It's not contagious. It's chemo."

Voila! I had just come out at work. Not under the best circumstances, I admit. I shrugged, cleaned myself off and got back to business.

That was the start of Project Spew Away.

A race to the bathroom

I decided to find my love for food again, regardless of the outcome. I went to a potluck that weekend. Oh, how the chicken wings called to me! And the chili? Oh yeah! I'll have some of that! With garlic bread? Why, of course! That White Russian would be a great chaser. That is until it wasn't.

I raced to the bathroom and barely made it to the sink. Chunks hitting the mirror as I tried to time the purge to the laughter and music outside the bathroom door. My hands were shaking now and the remnants of the potluck weren't fitting down the sink drain. The faucet was beginning to overflow! Projectiles had hit the ceiling and chunks landed at my feet.

There was a knock to the door and worried faces greeted my stained shirt. "The food ok?" my neighbor asked. "It's not the food," I said, "It's the chemo."

I had come out to my neighbor. My unfortunate husband helped me to wipe down the walls. We sneaked our way out the door. Operation Spew Away had left a very bad taste in my mouth.

It's not the pizza. It's the chemo.

Undeterred and just a few weeks later I agreed to dinner at a friends' place. Lovely handmade pizza drizzled with truffle oil. I had an extra piece. Well, maybe two. The last bite was too much. I mumbled an excuse and hustled to the washroom.

My aim was expert this time. My purge quiet and swift. The clean up efficient. No one would know, right?

Wrong! A little later my friend's husband emerged from the washroom, "Was the pizza ok?" I missed a sneaky little part in my cleanup. "The pizza was great. It's the chemo," I told him. I apologized profusely and began to rethink Project Spew Away.

The disgusting reality

Truth is I never really know what my stomach will react to. What's great one day might totally project with the force of a cannon the next. Project Spew Away gave me the courage to feed without fear, to aim well and always clean my own mess. It was far from realistic and downright disgusting at times. It's not something I plan to do again. I think that'll make a lot of people very relieved.

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

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