Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What's That Smell??

Throughout my life I have always had a heightened sense of smell.  And that sense in particular has always been very connected to my memory.  Some of my favorite smells are my Amarige perfume, lavendar, buttercream scented candles, fresh linens, my grandma's gravy (what we italians called sauce, oh how I miss it), my  husbands cologne, and the smell of the ocean.  Some of the smells I hate are bandaids, cigarette smoke, fresh cut grass, the inside of a hospital as well as the more obvious ones!

Whenever I enter a room, or my car, or even outside its often the first question I ask.  And depending on what it is I will be flooded with memories. When I go to Sloan for my checkups the second I enter the office building the smell nearly knocks me down...the familiarity of it.  Its a stark reminder of what I have been through.  It brings all fear back to me.   By the same token though the smell of my husbands cologne lingering in the house after he leaves makes me smile and feel a comfort.  When I was growing up my grandma made gravy every Sunday.  I miss that smell.  It always made me feel good in a house that was riddled by fighting and yelling.  On some Sundays when I make that same gravy I smile and think of her.  

During my treatment I would bring something with me that smelled good to me, like a piece of cloth doused with my favorite perfume or lavendar oil.  It helped me to deal with the smell of sickness all around me in the hospital.  Sometimes it worked and other times it didn't but I felt it was worth a try.  

Do you find that certain smells trigger your memory?  If so what are they?  How do you deal with those smells that trigger unpleasant memories?


Daria said...

Recently we've had a couple of rainy days ... I love the smell of rain.

Anonymous said...

Walking into my oncologist's office makes me sick to my stomach almost immediately - there's such a distinct odor to chemo and the other chemicals. When I was freshly out of chemo, the smell would knock me over, almost literally. I was there yesterday and able to abstain from the nausea, but the smells definitely evoke a certain physical and emotional reaction that I don't like. I think this will get better as I go on, but it's like music - smells and sounds stamp your life with moments, and allow you to remember them and re-live them. Sometimes, it's not what you want to re-live, but it makes you grateful to be able to be alive to smell/hear them.

Cathy Bueti said...

Daria, I agree....I also like the smell of rain. Michelle, I hear ya on that! When I go to my oncologists office for checkups I started feeling sick with nausea when I wake up that day which continues and gets worse when I walk in the building! And I am 8 years out now. Sometimes I wonder if it will ever feel different. But as you said it makes me grateful that I am here! Thanks for the comments girls!

Kairol Rosenthal said...

I know that so many survivors get triggered by smell. Yes, the alcohol smell of a hospital brings back general queasiness. My favorite smell is bread or cake baking. Yep, I'd much rather think about that!


Anonymous said...

I had a beautiful jar of expensive lavender body lotion with me in hospital, one of my favourite brands, but now when I smell that body lotion I am transported right back to those post surgery days lying in my hospital bed, all hooked up to my drain, and I can never use it again. I wrote a similar post last month so I am glad to see I am not alone in experiencing this. http://beyondbreastcancer.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/sights-sounds-and-memories/

kate said...

I never realized this was a common phenomenon! Thanks for posting about it. I was in the hospital for 7 days after my surgery for thyroid cancer. I've been going to the hospital since for check ups and even now my dentist is in the same facility. They have the this soap in all the bathrooms there that was also in my room post-surgery. I always try to remember not to use it after I go the bathroom, but washing your hands is such an automatic thing that most of the time I forget. The scent of it brings back such feelings of anxiety, it's awful! And always really shocking. I'll be leaving the dentist, use the restroom and then rub my nose in the elevator or something and suddenly all the bad memories of that time are washing over me. It's so strange.