Ice, ice baby

Pagophagia sounds like one of those words Lucy spouted off in A Charlie Brown Christmas. You remember the scene, in which Charlie Brown pays a call to Lucy’s psychiatric booth (The Doctor Is Way In), and she confronts him about his prospective phobias. “Perhaps you have hycangeophobia; the fear of responsibility. Or maybe ailurophobia — the fear of cats. Or climocophobia — the fear of staircases. Or thalassophobia — the fear of the ocean.”

I remember those long, complicated names for the phobias because I played Lucy in my 5th grade production of A Charlie Brown Christmas. I remember the blue pinafore dress that was my costume, and I remember that it was kinda hard to pronounce and memorize the long words that marked the phobias from which Charlie Brown might well have suffered. Little did I know that as an adult, I myself would suffer from claustrophobia and aquaphobia. How ironic.

So the first time I heard the word agophagia I figured it must be a phobia. Nope, it’s a disorder. And I have it.

Agophagia is a form of the disorder pica, in which a person craves and is driven to ingest non-nutritious substances, usually because of a vitamin or mineral deficiency. People with pica tend to eat all kinds of weird things, from paint to dirt to chalk, and it can get really weird with people trying to eat things like batteries and feces. Gross. I must be pretty mild on the agophagia spectrum, because the idea of eating any of those things is not just weird but disgusting.

No, for me the agophagia manifests in a powerful addiction to ice. 

Yes, that’s right, ice.

Not even ice that’s surrounded by a good cocktail, either, but ice. Just plain ice.

I am addicted to ice.

Hello, my name is Nancy and I’m an ice-a-holic. I’m an agophagiac.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but just chomped away happily at the ice that was left in the bottom of my water glass, or the cubes that collected once my iced tea was gone. Sonic ice left me positively swooning, but I didn’t realize I had a problem until I was going through the drive-thru just for a cup of ice. Route 44 size, please. Feeling a bit self-conscious about my addiction, I did a little research and learned I am not alone. Sonic ice has a Facebook page with more than 218,000 fans.

Excessive ice chewing is a symptom of an iron deficiency. Guess what I have? Yep, an iron deficiency. I am definitely anemic. I’ve been on a prescription iron supplement, but once I started feeling so puny from the long-term antibiotic I had to take, I stopped taking the iron pills. Not a good idea.

My cutie-pie oncologist likes to blame my iron deficiency on the fact that I don’t eat meat, but the fact of the matter is that it’s yet another fallout from the nasty-ass infection I contracted after my bilateral mastectomy. I was vegetarian long before cancer dive-bombed my house, and never had a problem with anemia. Once the mycobacterium set up shop, though, the anemia gained a foothold, and the ice obsession began for real. That dadgum myco caused a whole lot of problems, of which the anemia was the least of my worries. Once diagnosed with that wretched, wily infection, one of the many sites I consulted for research stopped me dead in my tracks with this: “Disease typically chronic, progressive; rare spontaneous resolution has been reported.”

Guess that means my ice-chewing obsession would be around a while. 

Like most addicts, I was the last one to notice that I had a problem. My girlfriends would giggle at me when my input on where to go to lunch after tennis revolved exclusively on which places had the best ice. Yes, I have them categorized much as my dear friend Amy Hoover knows which places serve the best iced tea. Some places use the same filter for the flavored and unflavored tea, ya know.

We have an ice machine outside, in the outdoor kitchen. It makes these groovy mushroom-shaped ice cubes that I adore. Not as much as Sonic ice, of course, but they’re pretty darn good. In the height of my addiction, I would consume 3 or 4 rounds of a 24-oz Tervis tumbler full of ice. Sometimes I wondered if the chomp-chomp-chomping sound was disruptive to those around me. Most times, though, I chomp-chomp-chomped away anyway, blissful in my puffy little cloud of addiction.

I’m not one bit ashamed to admit that I’ve been known to dig through the Hoshizaka to find the choicest bits of ice. Some cubes are more delectable than others; it’s a fact. And those are the very cubes most desirable to an ice-chomping addict.

However, I did start to suspect I had a problem when the only thing I wanted to pack for a long evening at the baseball field in 98-degree heat was ice. No water, just ice. And when the only thing I purchased at the baseball field concession stands was ice. Again, no water, just ice.

The pivotal moment in my addiction came a couple of weeks ago, when I was on my girls’ trip with my Duke friends. When it came time for the beverage service on the plane en route to the beach, I requested ice. No water, just ice. And more than one cup, please. Once at the beach, I realized the ice-cube trays in the freezer of our condo would not suffice, so I had to run out and get a cup of ice. Every day. I got smart and ordered 2 cups so I could put one in the condo’s freezer (alongside the worthless ice) for later. Each night at dinner, I asked for a to-go cup of ice. In the past I’ve been known to request a to-go cup, but I can assure you it wasn’t just ice. These were unchartered waters I had entered.

After becoming seriously worried that I was going to crack my teeth on all the ice I was consuming, I decided it was time to start taking that prescription iron supplement again. Within days, my ice obsession had waned. Weird.

While I still covet really good ice and will still pick through my ice machine for the best cubes, I’m not driven to chomp cup after cup of it. In fact, I realized this week that I’d gone 2 whole days without chomping any ice. Today while watching Macy’s tennis lesson, I got a cup of iced tea (extra ice, natch) and actually left most of the ice in the cup.

I’d like to think that my waning obsession with ice is a harbinger of my return to normal life, after a protracted cancer battle. I’ve had my share of complications on this “cancer journey,” and the idea of things turning around for real is pretty sweet. I relish the thought of being able to put that “cancer journey” on ice and getting on with my life.


8 Comments on “Ice, ice baby”

  1. Yvonne says:

    I want to know who the guy is in the Hoshikazi ad!! Thats enough to have an ice addiction. wink-wink;)

  2. Amy H. says:

    sometimes I like to go get a Route44 Sonic Ice and a Chick Fil A unsweet iced tea with NO ice and mix them….call me crazy……I’m with you on the ice…that’s just one of my diminished idiosyncrasies…..

  3. David Benbow says:

    I have always been an ice chewer (although not to your degree, apparently). Since turning 40, I’ve had 2 crowns put in. Probably because we don’t have Sonic in Minnesota.

  4. elizabeth connolly says:

    Hey, Nancy, as reading about your ice addition, I was thinking How I was going to keep your supply of ice going while you would be here. I mean i’ve dealt with addition and had to have supplies in for the addicts in the family but not ice. Then as I got to the end of your blog, I relaxed seeing you were in control of your ice addiction. Now i can concentrate in stocking up on what goes in those glasses filled with ice. Keep on blogging. lol bettyanne

  5. Cause and effect are always interesting phenoms. I did a blog about my peanut butter addiction, and used the words, “Hi, My name is Brenda, and I’m a peanut butter aholic.” I’m mostly a vegetarian, so we figured out that I wasn’t getting enough protein. Bump up my other protein sources and my desire for peanut butter almost vanishes. Who’d of guessed? Interesting to hear there are others with similar odd deficiencies.

  6. Mandi says:

    I guess the good thing about a lot of ice consumption is you are getting lots of water? Interesting that it is linked to an iron deficiency. I haven’t noted any odd cravings, just that I eat healthier now because I can really feel uncomfortable after eating anything deep fried or over the top fatty. It has turned into a bit of an unintended diet.

  7. Jan Hasak says:

    What an interesting topic. Addictions can mean a deficiency for sure. I’m not addicted to ice, but to ice cream. It’s hard to avoid in our culture, but I try. Even the low-fat and non-fat varieties can be bad with all the extra sugar, but tell that to an addict. It lands on deaf ears every time. Thanks for sharing honest thoughts.

  8. Afrodeezha says:

    Your blog came up when I googles pics of Sonic ice…who does that? ME!!! I’m a 3rd year dialysis patient. We are naturally iron deficient and they actually pass out cups of ice at the treatment center.

    They have those nice mushroom top ice cubes that I don’t touch. Sonic is less than 5 minutes away from my house and I get 2 large cups of ice a day (from the freezer please, not that nasty “holder” below the soda-that ice has an after taste). I get extra iron during treatment, but it has not waned my addiction.

    When I’m ready to chew my ice (if it’s been in my home freezer) I must pour a small bit of water over it, so it’s just right. It makes it just thin enough that it isn’t too bad on my teeth.


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