Root beer bonds a chemotherapy patient with his oncologist

by Krupali Tejura, MD

I am treating a patient for head and neck cancer — which can be one of the most harrowing therapies.

To receive chemotherapy and radiation concurrently can be pretty debilitating. Swallowing foods can be next to impossible, and the taste changes and saliva changes are brutal. It’s one of the harshest areas to treat … and I warn the patients beforehand: they are in for a battle.

This patient was a few weeks into therapy, and on their weekly appointment with me, his wife told me, “Doctor he tried to drink root beer, and it almost ‘killed’ him.”

I looked at him, as I had specifically told him to stay away from acidity, and anything sans water or possibly milky based substances. Drinking and eating foods could be like pouring acid on an open wound.

His response, “Doctor, I love root beer, I just wanted to taste it again.” Well root beer to me has a special meaning.

I understood his craving. We each have something or the other that we love to eat — whether it be the taste of root beer, chocolate or french fries — we all have our vice. To him, it was root beer.

I looked at him and said, “Ok. I totally understand. Let’s make a pact. I love root beer also. What if I give up drinking root beer until you can drink it again, and when you can, you’re taking me out for a root beer float so we can celebrate together.”

He chimed in, “It has to be A&W root beer.”

He laughed as did his wife.

We shook hands.

We had a pact and hopefully a date with root beer and some vanilla ice cream later on this summer.

Oh, dear root beer, you are our end goal.  It was a simple goal, but one with a greater meaning than you will ever know.

Krupali Tejura is a radiation oncologist who blogs at her self-titled site, Krupali K. Tejura, M.D.

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