Tastes Like

Mary Swan-Bell
5 min readOct 28, 2021

Two months post-immunotherapy, I got Covid. When I got the melanoma diagnosis, I never really asked, “Why me?” I thought: Fair. Years of tanning beds and baby oil and sun worshipping. Okay, Karma. But Covid? Nope. Fuck that. I wore my mask. I washed my hands. I stayed home. I got the vaccine. I sanitized shopping carts, and seat belts, and gas pumps and anything else that might have been contaminated by germy hands. When my husband came home from traveling, I sanitized his suitcase even as he rolled his eyes and poo-poo’ed my efforts to keep us safe. Easy for him to laugh and make light of my diligence, as it wasn’t his mortality that had been on the line for the last year. It wasn’t his body getting pumped full of drugs that unmasked melanoma while wreaking god knows what other kind of havoc on my body.

Caution aside, here we are. Covid warriors. He got a cold and a cough. I got a fever, a head that feels like it was stuffed with Styrofoam, aches, chills, debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath, and no sense of smell and taste.

Funny thing, that no sense of smell. I have a long and complicated relationship with this particular sense. I love so many smells…baking cookies, and simmering soups, and baby heads fresh from the bath. My youngest child wrapped up in her “night-night” who smelled always like warmth and breast milk. My husband’s cologne lingering on his shirts that I wear to bed when he’s traveling.

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, though; I told you it’s complicated. As a child, I couldn’t go into public restrooms because the disinfectant smell made me sick, and I would begin gagging as we crossed the threshold. Rest stops? Nope. Stores? Forget about it. We belonged to a swim club, and I still remember how the bathroom smelled. My mom would tell me to hold my nose. Although I grew out of this to some degree or learned to breathe through my mouth, I’ve returned to this club a few times as an adult and feel the bile rising in my throat as soon as I enter that damp concrete corridor. Maybe it’s remembered trauma. Maybe it still stinks. There are plastic tubs of gelatinous air freshener scattered around. So that helps. While surely available, those were not utilized in the 70s. We’ve come a long way, baby.

When I was pregnant, my already overactive whiffer reached super-hero strength. I mean if being able to…

Mary Swan-Bell

dreamer•mystic•seeker• author, Post-Its and Polaroids•