How food can trigger memories and emotions.
Ryan Hamner is a four-time survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma, a musician and a writer. In 2011, he wrote and recorded, "Where Hope Lives" for the American Cancer Society and the song for survivors, "Survivors Survive" used in 2015 for #WorldCancerDay. Recently, he published his book, This is Remission: A Four-Time Cancer Survivor's Memories of Treatment, Struggle, and Life, available on Amazon.
Eating was always a big deal for me during my days of cancer. Wait, it’s a big deal now, too. I love to eat! As many of those who have experienced chemotherapy know, it can make things taste funny and make certain foods trigger nausea in a flash. That’s not all, though! Foods can also trigger memories. "Food is an effective trigger of deeper memories of feelings and emotions, internal states of the mind and body," John S. Allen, author of The Omnivorous Mind
wrote in a Harvard University blog
. Below are five foods that will always remind me of cancer. Some bring back not-so-good memories while others remind me of great people in my life when battling the little jerk of a disease known as cancer.
Peanut Butter and Cheese Crackers
These crackers were a favorite of mine. I have to stress the word, "were." I remember as a kid I ate these orange crackers with peanut butter on a regular basis. It was always just a few hours before chemotherapy. Oftentimes, after chemotherapy, I encountered those crackers once again unfortunately, but they weren’t exactly fresh out of the wrapper. Today, the peanut butter and cheese crackers never seem to find their way onto my grocery list and any time I see a snack machine I’m reminded of this pre-chemotherapy cracker.
The Egg McMuffin
Every single day that I had to get chemotherapy, my family and I had to get up early in the morning and drive from Columbus, Georgia to Atlanta. These were the days that always, and I mean always, started off with a trip to McDonald's for their Egg McMuffins. If I had a dollar for every Egg McMuffin my family ate, we could have literally bought our own McDonald's franchise. I can still tolerate Egg McMuffins today if I have to, but they’re not one of my top picks exactly. These little things will forever remind me of the many trips to Atlanta for "McChemo."
OK, this one isn’t exactly a food. However, in some circumstances it fills in as a "food." Most times after a session of chemotherapy, we’d stay at the Ronald McDonald house in Atlanta. I’d be so sick that the thought of peanut butter cheese crackers or an Egg McMuffin would make me, well, toss my crackers. Many times after getting so sick after a chemotherapy treatment, the only thing I could put in my mouth were ice chips.
There are some foods that remind me of the days of cancer without the nausea. These foods only trigger good memories. One of these foods is banana pudding. Both of my grandmothers would make me banana pudding regularly because they knew this was the one food I could eat under almost any circumstance. Also, I think both of my grandmothers made me banana pudding because of their competitive spirit. I, of course, may or may not have used this competition factor to my benefit. Anyway, banana pudding was my go-to food. No matter what, I could always eat banana pudding.
This was the achievement and celebration food, an edible reward. My grandfather would cook up one of these bad boys when I finished treatment, after a surgery or just because he thought I was awesome. I know it sounds odd, but I will always associate London broil with my grandfather and cancer victories. He was also the same guy that took me for rides in his Corvette when I couldn’t go to school because I didn’t feel well and took me fishing while I was recovering from procedures. He was just an overall incredible guy. My song, "So Soon" was written for him and released on my first commercial record in 2007. Remember, no matter how many Egg McMuffins you have to start your day with, no matter how many crackers you have to toss and no matter how many times you have to eat a pretend dinner of ice chips, always look forward to that day when you get your London broil.