A cheese emoji, plus sign, ice cream emoji, equals heart eyes emoji with a question mark at the end.

That Time Steroids Made Me Crave Cheese-Flavored Ice Cream

It was 11 pm on a Friday night, and I was stalking the frozen food section of my local grocery store. Like King Arthur searching for the Holy Grail, I had embarked on an epic quest, sure to become the stuff of legends, for a mythical item I’d only seen in my imagination.

Cheese-flavored ice cream. I was looking for cheese-flavored ice cream.

It all started with cheesy dreams

I started experiencing weird food cravings after I first began taking the corticosteroids my doctor prescribed. Suddenly cheese, a food I’ve never cared to eat more than a little of, occupied so much of my brain it was difficult to concentrate on anything else. I literally dreamed of cheese balls dancing around my head at night. After a classmate’s recital in college, I found myself devouring the cheese plate at the reception. I started putting cheese on my salad until I realized that when the blocks of feta and cheddar outnumbered the vegetables, it probably wasn’t a salad anymore.

I started craving meat

On each of the many occasions, my doctor has prescribed steroids to control lupus flares, I seem to develop yet another weird craving. During my first experience with IV infusions of steroids, I made my caretaker pull over on the way home from the hospital for a hamburger smothered in ketchup. Prior to that flare, I’d only cooked meat once or twice a week, and rarely red meat. But suddenly I couldn’t eat enough hamburgers. I wanted them for every meal for a week.

Still longing for sweets

During another flare, I wanted cake pops from Starbucks once a day. After a week or two, the baristas at my local Starbucks began to recognize me. My partner at the time bought a cake pop maker after a month of cake pop cravings. “We’re going to go broke buying cake pops!” he complained.

I’m in a flare now and am on 22mg of steroids. This time, all I can think about is banana pudding. Creamy, smooth banana pudding with chunks of bananas and vanilla wafers and just the right amount of whipped cream...

Cravings come and go

Steroids have given me many strange food cravings over the years, but the cheese-flavored ice cream holds the record for my most memorable craving. Partly because I don’t love cheese or ice cream when I’m not on steroids, and partly because I hadn’t known it was possible to crave something that I didn’t even know existed. Craving cheese-flavored ice cream happened early on in my experience with lupus -- a silly story to laugh at and share with friends. Fortunately, I haven’t developed cravings for cheese-flavored ice cream since.

Completing my quest

Two years after the night I roamed the aisles of my local grocery store searching for this mythical dessert, I walked into the local Hong Kong Market with my mother. I followed her as she navigated the shopping cart around packages of dried fish, cans of congee, bottles of kimchis, and crates of spiky Jackfruit. We turned down the freezer aisle. My mother reached for a few packages of dumplings when the ice cream freezer caught my eye. I squinted, not sure I could believe what I was seeing. A tub of yellow cheese-flavored ice cream stared back at me, 2 years too late.

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