Tastes change while on chemo

After two chemo visits (weekly, so a total of a week and a half since we started), Aaron’s tastes have changed. They never warned us about this.

Appetite decreases

I would say Aaron is a normal 5-year-old with normal tastes, but that’s not precisely true. Yes, he loves the weekend doughnut, and cereal, and “treats” (like the nasty corn syrup “fruit snacks” and such) but he also loves broccoli and yogurt and granola and other healthy stuff. So, for a twenty-first century American kid, he’s probably doing okay.

His appetite has certainly decreased, but we were warned of that. Radiation and chemo can upset the gastro-intestinal tract, and induce nausea. This reduces appetite, and that’s part of the reason you see those skinny bald kids. They just don’t want to eat (or can’t).

Tastes change

But the unexpected thing is that Aaron’s tastes are changing. He still likes broccoli and yogurt, but chocolate is bordering on “yuck” status. His wonderful nurses at radiation have an advent calendar for him, but he doesn’t want the chocolates in it. Yesterday my wife came home with a nasty-gooey ex-chocolate square in her pocket. He spit it out. What 5-year-old spits out chocolate?

Chemo targets cancer by interrupting cell reproduction. Therefore, cells that divide quickly will be… fucked. Cells that reproduce slowly will probably not try to divide until after the chemo pulse passes, so they will be fine.

What cells reproduce quickly? Some I know about at this point are:

  • Gastro-intestinal
  • Hair folicles
  • Reproductive organs

But, apparently, taste buds also reproduce quickly. After all, who hasn’t burnt their tongue and couldn’t taste well for a while, but then it passes after a few hours?

(Makes me worry about eyes. Look at the sun, look away, then marvel at how quickly your sight recovers. At this point, I am looking for evidence that chemo does not damage retinas before I believe it.)

So, chemo may change your kid’s eating habits. You will already have enough to worry about with decreased appetite, but what your child desires may change too.

Feed them anyway!

All I can suggest is to roll with it. If your kid wants to eat pickles at 2 am, do it. Broccoli? Chocolate? If you can get food into your kid and it will stay down, do it. Even if it’s not the normal at the normal time. The chemo is purposefully fucking with your kid’s system, so you must adapt.

I just hope your kid veers away from sweets, as Aaron has. That is a bonus, because with radiation and chemo, sugar is bad. Diabettes is an increased concern.

Suggest healthy food, but keep your kid fed regardless. It’s the line you must walk, and that line may veer.

December 12, 2014
458 words


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