Eau de Toilette

Mint tea. And a sprig of mint.

So before, when I was having chemo, some days–some days at a time, to be honest–I would feel like I had to throw up. They call it a “side-effect.”

Now, let me be super clear. Feeling like you are going to puke, even for hours, even for days, is much better than being dead. So, my statement above is just conveying a fact. I am NOT complaining. [Please note if there are any cancer gods reading this, I am super grateful. This is not a post about tweaking you all. You did great by me!]

So that clarified, feeling like the contents of your stomach will soon be leaving via an overpass from your mouth is not great. It stops you from eating. It stops you from talking. It encourages you to roll up in as little a ball as you can, and to sit very, very quietly because you believe that if you move it would cause the volcano inside you to erupt.

There’s a difference between feeling like you have to barf when you’re hungover, for example, and feeling like you have to barf because of chemo. If you’re hungover and you let it go, you almost always feel better. Nausea gone. Eat a hotdog and drink a fountain coke and be on with your day. With chemo-induced queasiness, there is no such relief. You just feel like crap. Always. Seriously, so much better to have had too much whiskey last night. And for those of you keeping score at home, I can’t tell you how this compares to pregnancy-induced nausea. I feel quite blessed by that ignorance, thank you very much.

So here I am, curled up like my own little Poké Ball, giving a whole new meaning to Squirtle. Someone gifted me a handfull of a fluffy white bear. Let me tell you, new fluffy stuffed animals are amazing and surprisingly comforting. Anyway, holding that bear close, next to my chest,  under my chin and not moving a single muscle seemed to help keep the upchuck at bay.

I couldn’t drink it, but the smell of peppermint tea improved my stomach roils by orders of magnitude. I soon recognized that making tea that I couldn’t drink was less effective than just holding the peppermint tea bag directly in my nostrils. That was crazy effective. Summing up, if I didn’t move a muscle, held the fluffy stuffed bear under my chin and breathed in the tea bag, I was fine. I could fall asleep, which despite the chemo-exhaustion was blocked by feeling wretched or that I might just retch.

I could reuse that teabag for a few pre-snoozing sessions, but I manhandled my way through the box of Twinings Peppermint Tea. Gah!

“Doc,” said the boys, “you need anything?” Normally, there wasn’t much that they could do, but today, but today! I had a mission.

Almost before I could say, “Can you go up to the drugstore and get me some peppermint tea bags?” they were off.

I sat waiting with my legs tucked underneath me, perched on the arm of the couch. The dog-beast assumed his nurse’s position just on top of my feet. I was vewy vewy still, keeping the bear pressed to my breastbone awaiting their return.

They had gone to the drugstore to find no peppermint tea. Undaunted, they braved the late December cold five more blocks to the organic market. Surely there would be peppermint tea in the hippie-haven. They found many organic options including loose tea by the scoop. Pushing on, they rifled through boxes and boxes of rosehips, camomile, zingers–red and yellow, sleepytime, berry, ginger latte, revive, pomegranate pizazz, I<3Lemon, grateful heart, peach tranquility and citrus lavender sage herbal tea. There might have been more. There were more.

The voila! moment came when they ferreted the Candy Cane. It wasn’t pure mint, but, it seemed to them close to mission fulfilling.

They brought the tea home in a bag and with the story of their explore. When they took the plastic wrap off the box and handed me a fresh bag, I can tell you honestly that nothing ever before was that effective in quelling my quease. I propped the bag under my nose, squeezed the bear and sniffed deeply.

What nice boys. What a fluffy bear. What a scent. What a relief.

I had been told to not eat my favorite foods during chemotherapy. The association of those foods with nausea ruins a good relationship. I skipped some of my comfort foods so that they could comfort me into the future. Fortunately dark chocolate with hazelnuts was not spoiled. And, fortunately, I can still enjoy peppermint tea. Like I did tonight when it delivered this memory via it’s perfumed aroma.


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