Last night I dreamt at some length of pepperoni pizza. The look of it, those blood-red roundels of cured meat soaking in their own vermillion grease across a bubbling expanse of cheese just beginning to brown. The smell of it, that sharp scent of processed pig parts laying over the rich, rubbery odor of the cheese and the crunchy-yeasty promise of the crust transmuted so delightfully from sticky dough to a platform for transcendent savory flavor. The taste of it I was denied in my dream because I was eating a bedraggled salad in some anonymous pizzeria, and they kept bringing out other people’s orders and never my own. Finally I went up to the counter to beg a slice. They handed me a tray with several cold, stale cheese and pepperoni slices that had been too long in the warmer and told me I could have them.
Even for that I was grateful.
Then I woke up.
Consciously and unconsciously I’ve been integrating my experiences of food these past couple of weeks, both being on BRAT(y) and my episodic excursions from the restrictions of the diet. This is complicated.
First of all, everything is cyclical. From about the Sunday of chemotherapy to the Sunday or Monday after, I am in a very dietarily sensitive mode. From that trailing Monday the few days to chemo Friday I can eat more or less what I want within general boundaries of good sense and nutrition without disrupting my upper or lower GI. This except for the growing persistent food intolerances which inflect what I am willing or able to put into my mouth.
The digestive issues that disrupt my GI in that first week fall into several categories, which of course mingle and overlap. The chemotherapy I’m on interacts badly with insoluble fiber, so fresh greens, many vegetables and some fruits are right out. I’m missing my gall bladder and part of my colon so my fat metabolism is strange and very triggery. The damage to my gut lining from the chemo makes me transiently lactose-intolerant, sometimes spectacularly so, so dairy products must be limited or eliminated. The proteins in meat interact poorly with my chemo-inflected digestion, so I have to be very cautious about red meats and conservative about chicken.
In other words, pepperoni pizza and salad hits every wrong thing about my digestion.
Guess what I’m craving? Not just in my dreams, but in my daily life.
The upside is that this is all reasonably clear and easy to deal with. Lomatil as needed, Gas-X as needed, and sticking pretty close to BRAT(y) are keeping me from the absolutely disastrous GI disruptions of a few weeks ago. But man I miss real food. Last night, for my sister’s birthday dinner at one of the nicest fish/steak houses in town, I ate bread, hummus and sauteed mushrooms. Even that was me being a bit adventurous. On the plus side, I seem to be able to tolerate cake.
Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.