I have lost my sense of smell.

In someways, this is good. Unpleasant odors no longer assault me. Public bathrooms and the cat’s litter-box are no longer challenging.

But it’s mostly bad. Most of taste is smell, so the finer gradients of flavor are lost on me. I can taste sweet, sour, spicy and salty. But nothing more complex than that. Food tastes beige and bland. Earlier this week, I ate some salted caramel ice cream. The wonderful taste of burnt sugar was lost on me. It was just milky and creamy. My favorite dish in the world—an onion and blue cheese tart—is no longer ecstatic. There is the ghost of flavor, but it has no depth.

My lack of smell and taste is due to a chronic condition I have. It’s sometimes called Samter’s Triad or Aspirin-Induced Asthma. The “triad” is: one part allergy to aspirin, one part asthma, and nasal polyps. The polyps are non-cancerous tear-shaped growths that bloom in sinus cavities. They block scent receptors. In addition to the lack of scent and taste, I get sinus headaches, always sound stuffed up, and worst of all, get frequent sinus infections, mostly due to the build up of fluids trapped in the sinus cavities.

I had an acute asthmatic attack one time in Brooklyn about 10 years ago, after I’d taken an aspirin. I was rushed to the emergency room, where I was given oxygen and had numerous tests done on me (that insurance did not cover). Until then, I had never been diagnosed with asthma, but looking back over the years, I realize that I had a slight case. About five years ago, I had an operation to remove the polyps. In preparation, I had to take prednisone, which made me manic. It took about a week to recover from surgery, and lots of vicodin.

Now, the polyps are back, and all of the attendant issues. This week has been the worst of it. I’ve been having extra wheezy days, along with headaches, and at times it’s comfortable to even talk.

More than smell and taste, I miss the just feeling normal. My head is full of pressure and tightness, like a balloon ready to pop.


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