It’s funny how we remember.
One of the less pleasant side effects from the chemo I received in 1993 for breast cancer was mouth sores. Five days or so after an infusion, my mouth would fill up with painful ulcers. Not just a couple. Enough to line the walls of my mouth, my tongue, you name it. My oncologist likened the outbreak to thrush, the painful onslaught of blisters that babies get which makes drinking even a bit of formula next to impossible.
The regimen for dealing with mouth sores was quite time-consuming. Several times a day, I rinsed with a solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, water, and a hint of salt. My toothbrush, at outbreak time too sharp and intrusive to maneuver, was replaced by what looked like a lollipop stick with a sponge at the end. I also had a prescription for “Magic Mouthwash,” a rinse to be applied at the most painful moments to numb the inside of my mouth completely–that is, until I needed a sip of water to combat the dryness that the regimen produced.
To this day–some 19 years later–the mouth sores continue to occur, though not as frequently as in the years immediately after my first bout with breast cancer. And my body remembers.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been managing a mouthful of memory triggers. The culprit is never quite clear: stress, too many salty meals at the softball field, a stray morsel of something acidic lying in wait and cleverly dodging my toothbrush. I brought out the rinses, began a diet of soft foods and milkshakes, and tried as hard as I could not to think back to the days of chemo when mouth sores were one of many issues with which I had to contend.