On Losing the Sense of Smell

...the things that matter

...the things that matter

I was doing some holiday shopping today.  Returning to my truck, I was stopped by a man backing out in a brand new car – still had the sticker in the window.  Nostalgically my mind sought out the memory of that “new car smell.”  Then I wondered do new cars still have that smell (composed probably of plastic, vinyl and paint giving off volatile fumes)?

I couldn’t tell you.  I have mostly lost my sense of smell, yet another minor victim of my extended life, my dear cancer-denying life.  My sense of smell was gradually squashed out by a long and complex course of therapy called allogeneic stem cell transplant.  Years of steroids and other immune-suppressing drugs.

There was a time in-between in which I experienced phantom smells.  Phanosia is the medical terms.  It usually happened in the evenings – a strong scent of butter cooking.  Other times it was a more acrid, chemical smell.  In the beginning I would ask Tish, “Do you smell that!”  But the answer was always “no…”

So here it is the Christmas season.  And while I will have little opportunity to sit in a brand new car, I do miss the fresh pine smell of the Christmas tree.  I do miss the smell of cookies baking in the oven and the yeasty scent of fresh bread.  I miss the smell of melted chocolate simmering on the stove.  I miss the unmistakable smell of the sea.  I miss the faint cold scent of the air after a fresh snow.

But these are small things.  Because I will not be missing this Christmas.  I once had reason to believe that 2001 would be my last Christmas on this Earth.  Miracles do happen.  Here I am, ready to be surrounded by my growing family, my two young granddaughters, and, for their first Christmas, my twin granddaughters only a week old.  These are the things that matter.  Smell is just part of the price I paid.


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


On Losing the Sense of Smell — 1 Comment

  1. I lost my sense of smell, and most of my sense of taste, to radioactive iodine that attacked my salivary glands. It is amazing – even though I think it is totally “gone” on an everyday basis, after I get another dose, it is even MORE gone, and the world takes on a sterile, thick feeling. It is amazing how much the loss of those two senses changes how I perceive the world. I blogged about it last November when I got my treatment.

    I hope you enjoy some Christmas goodies even without the pleasure of smelling them! And thank God that by His grace we are here to celebrate with our families this year.

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