An Enthusiastic Nose

The guy was on his feet as I entered the consulting room. Arms open, he ushered me towards an oversized desk. My medical policy had secured a meeting with an ENT specialist on London’s Harley Street. It was the early nineties.

He was animated, beaming, like his polka dot bow tie. It must be good news.

“You have a most enthusiastic nose,” he gushed.

I returned a bemused smile.

He motioned towards a PC screen.

“Here’s the scan of your skull.”

Another bemused smile.

“The black,” he explained, “that’s the polyps.”

My sinus areas were fully inked-in, like ghoulish apparitions, hovering either side of the nose.

“All polyp.” He finger-pointed. “Never seen anything like it.”

The polyps ran from my sinus cavities into the nasal passages. It didn’t matter that I had around six million smell receptors in my nose. The receptors waited in vain for odour molecules that never turned up. Medication failed. Steroids couldn’t shrink the polyps. The squatters had to be evicted by force.

I remained more subject than patient throughout this relationship. But I didn’t care. I figured I would make a great case history. I imagined him presenting the scans; a pre-surgery ‘all black’ followed by a post-surgery ‘all clear’. He’d approach the surgery with the same enthusiasm as his diagnosis. He’d get it all out.

And so he did. I played my post-operative part, blowing the worst of bloody noses in the weeks that followed.

Afterwards, my smell receptors thought it was Christmas. Millions of microscopic elves got back to work. The strength of re-discovered scents were off the scale. My molecular relationship with the wider world returned to full-on intimacy. I was re-born.

But they didn’t tell me the polyps might re-grow. Within a few years the squatters returned. I was back to square one.

I tried to curb my nose’s enthusiasm with a second bout of surgery. It again brought a reprieve that again was only temporary. Later I learned that my procedure went scarily close to the brain. Since then, I count my anosmic blessings. Could I have been a vegetable for the sake of tasting vegetables?