Weaving my way around Rheumatoid Arthritis.

A rose by any other name…

with 2 comments

It started last winter. We had every day, all day, meetings for an entire month. I made a pot of chicken soup, filled a thermos, and sipped the broth all morning, then ate the soup part for lunch – every day. At one point, a friend asked me what was in the thermos, and commented that it smelled divine every time I opened it. That’s when I realized that I couldn’t smell it – at all.

Over the next few months, I became more and more aware that food didn’t smell the way it used to. I have a gals’ night in at my house every Monday, and I cook dinner. The gals would regularly come in raving about how good the food smells, and I realized, at some point, that I couldn’t smell it – at all. I even made several attempts to go outside for a half hour to “clear my nose” in the fresh air, and then go back inside to see if I could smell the food, and that made no difference.

Summer came, and my roses started blooming. I have only fragrant roses.  This year, I was disappointed. They didn’t smell much.  When I slyly showed them to others, they always inhaled deeply and commented with “oh, smell this one, its wonderful”. The day I realized I could barely smell my roses was a sad day.

Losing your sense of smell is weird. In general, we aren’t wire to notice something that is not there. And I think the loss was/is a gradual fading, and not like a light switch flipped off all at once.

I was vaguely aware of this loss, it was something that was hovering in the back of my mind for months. My life was busy, and, for the most part, I ignored it. I did notice that I was adding more and more salt to my food and more and more sugar to my coffee.

And then four things happened in rapid succession.

I bought a new package of coffee, opened it, and realized it smelled like – nothing.  So, I waited around for my son and had him smell the coffee beans, muttering something about thinking it was stale. He declared it smelled wonderful and full-bodied and promptly made a pot, which I couldn’t smell – at all. Alarm bells started to go off, but I was busy with other things.

The next week, I went camping. And built a camp fire. And spent the better part of the evening standing around the campfire. And came home. And my daughter hugged me and commented on how good I smelled – of campfire! We heated with wood for 8 years when she was little, and a smokey campfire smell takes her right back to childhood. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t smelled the campfire smoke – at all.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving day. The turkey is roasting in the oven, I’m napping on the couch a few feet away. One of the kids comes racing in yelling to check the turkey, they think it’s burning. We caught it just in time, it was nicely crisp and brown, but not burned. I’ve always cooked by smell, and I couldn’t smell the turkey – at all.

The day before Thanksgiving, I made a loaf of gluten-free bread in the new bread maker. My FSIL used that bread, and my recipe, to make the stuffing. I don’t know whether the gluten-free bread had more salt than regular bread, or if my FSIL read the recipe wrong. At dinner, my son commented on how much salt I was putting on my stuffing. When I asked him why he asked, he said the stuffing was already almost too salty to eat. He couldn’t imagine how I could eat it with added salt. That’s when I stopped and paid attention, and realized I couldn’t taste the stuffing – at all – no sage, no pepper, no onion, no turkey essence, barely salty.

So, after spending several hours the past few days doing internet searches, I spoke with my nurse practitioner yesterday morning. I half expected her to tell me not to worry, that it was a normal part of aging. Instead she asked me lots of questions, and when I volunteered that I couldn’t even smell coffee, and that I’d noticed that I was adding more and more salt to my food, and could only really taste salt and sweet, she said she would talk to her peers and call me back with the name of a specialist, and that she wanted a head scan.

It seems that there’s little known about loss of sense of smell, but some of what is known is auto-immune related illness, and in some of the more recent studies, they are finding that loss of sense of smell is an early way to diagnose some really icky things – lupus, Alzheimer’s, MS, and Parkinson’s.

After I spoke with her, I stopped at a flower stand at noon, and smelled all the flowers – every single different variety. And I couldn’t smell them – at all.

Then I wandered through the produce aisle. In the past, I could  pick out a piece of ripe fruit by the smell, but yesterday nothing smelled at all.

Then I wandered over to the aisle with the scented candles. I used to avoid that aisle. Hated the smell. Just walking down it made me nauseous. I tried smelling every single different candle by every manufacturer. I couldn’t smell any of them – at all.

I came home and opened every bottle of spice in the cabinet. I tried to open them without looking at the labels, to see if I could identify the smell and not imagine that I remember what it smells like. I can smell some of the spices – ginger and cinnamon and cloves, and some of the fresh herbs I’d dried. Some, not at all.  That gave me hope that I still have some functioning “smellabilty” (don’t even have a vocabulary to talk about this – we have taste buds, do we have smell buds?)

So, I wait to hear back for a recommendation. Hope that I can get in to see the specialist before the end of the year, since I’ve already met my deductible. Realize that my well laid plan of avoiding all doctors next year is failing and it isn’t even next year yet. And pray that this isn’t just the tip of yet one more iceberg.

Stop and smell the roses today – for me.


Written by wovensongs

December 1, 2011 at 6:42 am

2 Responses

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  1. Wow! I sure hope they come up with a solution to this. Poor you. No smell would be a tough one as we are wired to smell alot. And I didn’t realize that loss of smell is attributed to autoimmune issues. Seems we have so much to always learn with these illnesses. Please keep us posted on what you find out as you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

    deb aka abcsofra

    December 1, 2011 at 7:08 am

    • Thanks Deb,

      There are other, less serious, things that it could be, but none of them seem to fit my pattern of symptoms. Something auto-immune seems the most likely, and potentially, the most serious.

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed for “normal loss of smell with aging” as hoping/believing that seems to be the only way to stay sane until I know something.

      Smell and taste go hand in hand. I should have realized something was up when I stopped liking chocolate. But I’m a glass half full kind of gal, and I just figured that I was getting healthier and felt smug that I no longer was a chocoholic!

      I think I need to get to the ocean sooner than I planned. Since I can still taste salt, maybe I can still smell the sea!

      Hope your day is filled with beautiful bright sunshine and a wonderful walk on the shore.


      December 1, 2011 at 7:45 am

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