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Feb 19, 2016

The Odd Sensations of Cancer Treatments

Make-A-Wish Brazil volunteers
Today’s guest blogger overcame cancer, and he has some enlightening observations about his treatments. Andres concludes our series about the unexpected aspects of fighting a serious illness by shedding some light on the physical sensations of cancer treatments. Volunteers and supporters granted his wish to attend the 2014 World Cup. Andres is now a student at University of Miami.

Okay, I know what you are thinking: “Well, duh, its cancer.” But today I won’t talk about all the times where I felt under the weather. Instead I have chosen to share with you some of the everyday oddities that I experienced firsthand through my battle with leukemia.

In order to share some of these experiences I must familiarize you with some aspects of my treatment, but please bear with me, I will try my best to not bore you. 

Andres Hidalgo, chemo, advice, tips, cancerBlood Transfusions 

Due to the nature of my cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia, my doctors used chemotherapy to target my bone marrow. They did this because at the time my bone marrow was producing immature white blood cells, and the doctors needed the bone marrow to cease production. 

This cease of production of blood cells, caused me to have low blood counts throughout the course of most of my treatment. Unfortunately, due to my pale complexion, I quickly became the butt of many of my mother’s BAD Twilight jokes. But all kidding aside, since my blood counts were always low I was frequently subjected to blood transfusions. The most memorable of these being when I had red blood cell transfusions; this isn’t to say that the white blood cell transfusions, which reminded me of giant bags of boogers, were any less memorable. 

My mother recalls that it was during one of these red blood cell transfusions, that I told her I could feel the blood heating my body. Body parts that had been cold prior to the infusion of blood, such as my hands and feet, were suddenly pink and warm. The blood also immediately rushed to my cheeks and lips, making it appear as if I had suddenly worn make up. 


Due to my treatment protocol spanning a period of roughly three years, my doctors decided that it would be best that I have a medi-port surgically placed on top of my left pectoral muscle rather than having a PIC-line dangling from my right arm, which could have easily become infected. 

Immediately after I had my medi-port placed (check out the photo to see what a medi-port looks like), I began to “taste” and “feel” certain chemotherapies. This was especially true with saline, a solution of salt and water used to clear my medi-port of blood clots immediately before I was injected with a chemotherapy drug. The best way I could describe the feeling of the saline injection is the intense taste and smell of salt similar to when seawater goes up your nose at the beach. 

Water/Hot Sauce 

I honestly do not know why, but I have found that most cancer patients (myself included) have noticed that water tastes funny while undergoing treatment. The best way that I could describe it would be to say that the water appears to take on a metallic, almost mineral like, taste.

A similar thing occurs with food. For some patients, often times they will love a food before and after treatment, but will suddenly hate the food when they are undergoing treatment. This was the case for me with foods like sausages, most barbecued meats, and Thai food. I also grew nauseous even smelling certain foods that I love, like ketchup or aged cheeses.

It was during this time that I would only want to eat very spicy foods. I had always liked hot sauce, but during my treatment I would put it on everything. The few times that I was ever hungry during treatment, I would crave buffalo wings or pizza covered in red pepper flakes. 

Well, I hope this helped to shed some light on some of the weird sensations that accompany cancer that you wouldn’t know unless you went through it. I hope to write to you again really soon!

Want to read more about this topic? Check out our first post about what to expect during cancer and chemotherapy treatments.

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June 25, 2012 - 11:25 AM

June 25, 2012 - 11:25 AM

June 25, 2012 - 11:25 AM

June 25, 2012 - 11:25 AM

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