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The Process, Part 8: I Get a License to Nosh

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One of the truly classic episodes of original television series The Twilight Zone featured Burgess Meredith as a bookworm bank teller who didn't have time to read. The character -- Henry Bemis -- ate his lunch every day in the bank's vault so he could read undisturbed for an hour.

One day an atomic (this was before we began to call it nuclear) war occurs while Bemis is at lunch and Bemis, who was protected because he was in the vault, is the only person left on Earth. He's elated: He now has all the time he wants to read undisturbed. To his great joy, Bemis discovers the library down the block was not harmed by the nuclear weapons and the books are intact.

Bemis then sits on the library's front steps and bends down with the first of the thousands of books he is going to read. As he does so, his glasses, without which he can't read, fall off and break. In one of the greatest ironies imaginable, Bemis has what he wanted -- time to read -- but he's unable to do so because he can't see.

Call me Bemis.

After decades of being one of those people who has always had to watch what I ate, I have been strongly encouraged by Team Stan -- especially by my radiation oncologist, my radiation oncologist's resident and my dietician -- to eat lots of small meals during the day while I'm going through The Process. They also don't care that much about what I eat. Their primary consideration is that I take in enough calories to prevent my body from being too weak to deal with the side effects of the radiation.

In other words, I have a "license to nosh."

There's just one problem. My desire to eat has been so strongly tempered by losing my sense of taste that I have no desire to use the license I've just been granted. The food I otherwise would have looked at longingly as a guilty pleasure is simply no longer appetizing or appealing in any way.

This is what Bemis must have felt after his glasses broke. I've got a great opportunity (Think about being able to down a slice of pizza with sausage and pepperoni utterly guilt-free) that I'll likely (and hopefully never under these same circumstances) get again... and I can't take advantage of it.

One of the things that makes this so difficult is that my other senses and faculties are all still working just fine. I can smell, see and touch the food. That makes me remember what it's supposed to taste like and, therefore, I still eagerly anticipate that first bite or sip.

But that first taste is so disappointing that I literally have to force myself to take a second, and then a third. My brain is telling me there's something so wrong with the soup, salad, and hamburger that it's dangerous to continue eating.

It's Bemis-like frustrating. Bemis could pick one up and know was holding was a book (This was, of course, decades before iPads and Kindles), and he could remember the joy he used to get from reading. He just couldn't actually read it.

Me? I can see and smell the food; I just can't force myself to eat it that much of it. Sometimes I can't do more than a bite or two.

This is a continuing series of blog posts by Stan Collender about his experience fighting cancer. "The Process" Stan is describing began last August.

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