Loss of sense of smell in Parkinson’s isn’t so terrible for one patient

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by BioNews Staff |

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A graphic image accompanying Parkinson's community spotlight stories.

Photos courtesy of Christine Scheer.

This is Christine Scheer’s story:

After almost three years of masking, endless hand washing, keeping a safe distance from others, and getting all the vaccinations, including boosters, I tested positive for COVID-19. Why? Because I threw caution to the wind that fateful weekend at a funeral.  My sister-in-law had just died of cancer, and I didn’t wear a mask, and I hugged an endless stream of people.

I’d been worried about COVID-19 because I have Parkinson’s disease, and who knew what the virus could do to my already compromised body?

Christine with her family at the 2022 Walk for Parkinson’s.

I listen in wonder to COVID-19 patients sad because they lose their sense of smell — for 2-3 weeks! Hey y’all, my sense of smell is GONE!

Like many people with Parkinson’s, the loss of my sense of smell was one of the early signs of the disease. There is no hope of getting it back.

But considering the ways that Parkinson’s ravages the body, not having a sense of smell is a minor complaint. And there is the bonus that I can clean the kitty litter without any olfactory discomfort!

Before I retired, I worked as a chef, so my sense of smell was very important. Now, I can hardly smell a thing!

No more aromas of bread baking, garlic sizzling, or fresh basil for me. Sometimes I get a whiff of something — usually while driving, for some reason — and I’ll ask my husband, “What is that smell?” It’s generally skunk! At home, it’s usually my fermenting sourdough on the counter. It can be… pungent!

Christine with a loaf of sourdough bread.

One evening several years ago, I was waiting for my husband for supper, and decided to pop a delicious homemade chicken potpie in the oven. When I took it out of the basement freezer, I discovered the freezer wasn’t really cold. I found out later that men working on our furnace had unplugged it. Anyway, the pie still seemed a reasonable temperature, so I popped it in the oven.

When my husband came home and went down to check on things, he came back upstairs literally gagging from the smell. It was the freezer we used for meat, and the previous winter we’d ordered a half cow. I hadn’t turned on the lights when I went downstairs, so I didn’t notice the meat had defrosted — and leaked all over the floor. And of course, I didn’t notice the smell. The crazy thing is that I hoped the chicken potpie would still be edible. Long story short, we had pasta for supper!

Was having COVID-19 so terrible? No, I felt icky, but it was bearable. Is having Parkinson’s so terrible? No, because my family and friends are amazing and supportive, and laugh with me at the ridiculous things that happen. The absolute sadness I felt at my sister-in-law’s funeral, however, is the one thing that’s blindsided me with the unfairness of it all. It put things in perspective for me, and made me realize how lucky I am, Parkinson’s and all.

In recognition of Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April, the Parkinson’s Community Spotlight campaign features a series of stories highlighting the real-life experiences of people affected by Parkinson’s disease written in their own words. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #ParkinsonsSpotlight, or read the full series.