Did I just smell mint?

February 26, 2009


So yesterday my friend Heather and I went to the spa for facials. The person who did mine was under strict instructions not to touch my head behind my hairline, just not ready for that!

Anyways, at the end of the facial he spritzed stuff over me, and suddenly I blurted “Was that minty?!” It was, so I thought I had smelled something. The facial person was so excited he gave me some of the stuff I first “smelled”. I tried to smell it when I got home, alas nothing. Some of the spray must have landed in my mouth and I just tasted it. Trust me, when I found I could not smell it, I then tasted it (not advisable) and it indeed tastes so strong that my theory is plausible.

Still waiting on my follow-up appointment with the neurosurgeon.

Brain cupcakes

February 26, 2009


Funny “Brain” cupcakes!


  • 300g (2 cups) self-raising flour
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 175ml/6 fl oz buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 teaspoons good-quality strawberry jam mixed with some red food colouring to make it as bloody looking as possible

1. Preheat oven to 180°C and line a cupcake tray.

2. Sift the flour into a medium bowl, then add a pinch of salt and the caster sugar. In a jug, combine the vegetable oil, egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Add to the dry mixture and stir to only just combine. It will be thick and puffy. Place 1/2 tablespoonful of the mixture in each muffin hole and make an indent in the centre. Fill each indent with a heaped tablespoon of the strawberry jam.

3. Cover the jam with the remaining cupcake batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Brain buttercream

  • 250grams butter softened
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Red and Brown or Black food colouring

Beat butter in a small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy, beat in sifted icing sugar and milk in two batches until fluffy. Add in a couple of drops of red and brown or black food colouring until a grey pink shade is reached. My black powder has a very green tinge so I used red and brown and a small amount of black at the end. Gels are better as you don’t need very much and I find that it’s easier to accidentally use more liquid colour.

Thanks for the link Sylvie 🙂

“Phantosmia: smelling an odor for which there is no stimulus, a ‘phantom smell’.”

All I can say is that it is annoying, and the smell has become more chemically. It comes and goes, but if I can keep myself busy and keep my mind off it, generally it goes away. Of course I am surrounded my chemicals as I write this…

Uuugh, where’s a neurologist when you need one lol?!


February 21, 2009

I can smell something.

I realised today that I have been smelling it since I was in hospital. At the time, I assumed that was what the hospital smelled like.

But no.

It’s a smell that only exists inside my head. It’s a bit like citrus yoghurt… a fundamentally wrong combination.

Update, 3 weeks post-op

February 18, 2009

So it is now 3 weeks to the day since my surgery. I still have no follow-up with my neurosurgeon. I called his office yesterday and they still haven’t scheduled it! It really is so everyday to them. You just have to trust their experience and that they cast you out into the world when you are ready for it. Luckily my GP has said I can go see him whenever I need to, no appointment necessary. Even more lucky is that I haven’t had to take him up on his offer.

I have seen my naturopath however, he seemed shocked with how I looked and questioned if I had actually had the surgery haha. I am now taking Vitamin C, D, B, Zinc (for taste), and Probiotics (to reduce chance of infection). No Omega 3 (major brain food) yet as it acts a blood thinner. I also have the homeopathic remedy Belladonna to take in situations when the the hypervigilance gets bad.

Books to read

February 17, 2009


My next two reads:

The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge MD.

It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature.

There is also a film based on this book. There is a shorter version that was shown on CBC’s Nature of Things so here’s the episode in full.

Proust was a Neuroscientist  by Jonah Lehrer. 

Lehrer explores the oft-overlooked places in literary history where novelists, poets and the occasional cookbook writer predicted scientific breakthroughs with their artistic insights. The 25-year-old Columbia graduate draws from his diverse background in lab work, science writing and fine cuisine to explain how Cézanne anticipated breakthroughs in the understanding of human sight, how Walt Whitman intuited the biological basis of thoughts and, in the title essay, how Proust penetrated the mysteries of memory by immersing himself in childhood recollections. Lehrer’s writing peaks in the essay about Auguste Escoffier, the chef who essentially invented modern French cooking.


February 17, 2009

Break through! Perhaps I can taste, but not smell… I found this, the Anosmia Foundation. Anosmia means a complete loss of the sense of smell (temporary or permanent). This is an interesting excerpt from their site:

Despite the close association, taste and smell are anatomically and functionally distinct… The olfactory system is vitally important in determining food flavors. During chewing and swallowing, odor-laden air is forced from the rear of the oral cavity to the olfactory receptors,evoking many flavor sensations that people usually associate with taste but that are almost completely dependent on the sense of smell. 

The sense of smell plays a major role in the flavor of foods and it is common for individuals who lose their sense of smell to report that food loses its taste. This is of course incorrect; the food has only lost its aroma, and taste (sweet, salty, sour, bitter) remains intact. 

Recent studies indicate an even greater importance of the interaction between smells and tastes in food flavor – the sensitivity to an odor (almond) actually improved when there was a sweet taste in the mouth, but not with a savory taste – almond + sweet is experienced as cherry – this suggests there is actually a specific site in the brain where integration of taste and smell information occurs – in other words, “flavor” is greater than the sum of taste + smell, so only getting half of the sensation will give you less than half of the “flavor quality”! 

Anosmics can taste quite well — nothing missing there. But they cannot experience flavor.

Smell is 10,000 times more powerful than taste. Taste is mostly (~75 %) smell. 

More info on this here.


There is a HUGE list of causes (check out the full list), here are some ones relevant to meningioms: 

  • cranial surgery
  • surgery with general anesthesia
  • transphenodial surgery
  • swelling of the brain 
  • polyps or tumours
  • Antidepressants & anticonvulsants: amitriptyline, carbamazepine, clomipramine, clozapine, desipramine, doxepin, fluoxetine, imipramine, lithium, phenytoin, trifluoperazine. 
  • Anti-inflammatories: auronofin, colchicine, dexamethasone, diclofenac, dimethyl sulfoxide, fgold, hydrocortisone, d=penicillamine penicillamine

Dexamethasone (brand name Decadron)  and Phenytoin (brand name Dilantin) are both on the list, and I think are both common drugs to be on after a craniotomy. I certainly was. Benefits outweigh the negatives though when you think about what they do.

Foster Kennedy Syndrome

February 17, 2009

I remember my neurosurgeon standing by my bedside in neuro ICU, his interns (SO many interns) huddled around the foot of my bed. He said something like, “This is is the lady who presented with the olfactory grove meningioma and ____ _____ syndrome.” Forget the interns, I asked ” What syndrome? What’s that? You never said anything about that!” Then I promptly forgot everything he said.

Well then smashedpea’s blog reminded me, Foster Kennedy Syndrome. It refers to a constellation of findings associated with tumors of the frontal lobe. Apparently it is quite exciting for neuro medical types. I had no symptoms of it before, but I do now, aka, no sense of smell “Anosmia”.

Dent in my head

February 17, 2009


Well the swelling must be subsiding as I have discovered a pretty big dent in my head! It is on my right temple, and it simply does not exist on the other side.

Craniotomy pictures

February 16, 2009


This guy David LaPuma had the same kind of surgery as me, and his incision is pretty much the same, just on the opposite side of his head to me.

Take a look if your stomach can bear it. There was a time when I couldn’t look at these, now I find it fascinating. They are here on Flickr.