Chapter 21: Clogged
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Be forewarned: It’s another TMI chapter like Chapter 9. So pretty much, anytime you see a clip from South Park… It’s going to get dirty.
One of the things they don’t stress upon beginning an elongated stay in a hospital is how “backed up” you get while on medication. Yes, they mention it – and everyone reacts differently to various medications – but wow, this was bad.
I was thoroughly enjoying my freedom at the Ronald McDonald House, only having to visit the hospital for a few hours a day. I still couldn’t get over how nice it was to just up and leave the apartment whenever I felt like it and cruise around Bangor, especially since I’d only been down to the “big” city a few times before. Gary knew the way around here because he used to drive trucks through the city.
There was so much to do down here! I had never been so overwhelmed with stores, restaurants, parks, and the like. But even so, when I arrived at the “apartment” I was able to properly unwind with the newest rental(s); the options were abundant. But this night, in particular, was worse than others, for I couldn’t go to the bathroom; I hadn’t for a few days and I was beginning to worry.
Sure, I could pee like a champ, but my bowels were at a standstill; nothing was budging. I had encountered some minor issues with this before while hospitalized, so they’d administer some typical treatments: milk of magnesia, senna tablets, Prune juice, Lax-Potion (a mix of Bran cereal, applesauce, and prune juice); they had a full smorgasbord of stool softeners. This battle against the bulge was fought will all of them, and none could touch the obstruction. Every day, I’d go to the outpatient clinic and report on the status. Negative.
Negative. This was getting out of hand. I’d spend a good hour or two on the toilet, hoping– praying anything would work its way out. I was told not to sit there and force on it, as you could damage the lining of your fragile colon, form a hemorrhoid or worse– tear the anus.
I debated which was actually worse: tearing the anus or having to get my excrement surgically removed.
I’m still thinking…
Either way wasn’t going to be pleasant, but I was getting awfully worried about the latter, so I purposely purchased a handful of magazines and spent the better part of my nights on the “throne” (another great use of that money, I might add).
Film and video game news never felt so boring or irrelevant to me. I didn’t want to read magazines as a means to a literal end; I wanted to enjoy them. I was too tense to evacuate my bowels most times anyway. At any rate, I’d do my best to ignore the lack of a fully functioning digestive system and instead perused still images for the new Mario Kart.
I thought back to the time I borrowed the Doc’s stethoscope. That day I sat in bed and listened to my healthy colon doing its thing. During one of my daily visits to the clinic, I asked Doctor Allen if I could use her stethoscope once more. I placed it on my intestines. Where I once heard gurgling and flow heavier than the slime barreling down the sewer system in Ghostbusters II, now the compendium of sound effects featured only a smattering of an occasional babble or crackle. Time to call Roto-Rooter.
Nothing. The next day at the outpatient clinic, I reported the “lubrication cocktail’s” ineffectiveness. My counts still weren’t at optimal levels. If I tore something now, there’s no telling how long it would take to heal. Thankfully, the care staff had anticipated this issue, and pumped me full of platelets and white blood cells; more than the usual stasis amounts.
I had decided to try it again that day. I sat on the toilet for hours, just trying to relax and let it come out naturally. Honestly, I became quite enthralled by the Nintendo Power’s game previews for the Gamecube and had forgotten about the conflict of porcelain proportions.
Then it finally hit me: I had to go…
…And it was too big. I sat there for longer, slowly but surely working it out. It came out in pieces, like dry clay falling apart, but every bit helped relieve my discomfort.
Soon after some of the most excruciating pain, I had ever experienced, it was all out. I felt like a million bucks. I went to wipe, and the opening was still tender. Makes sense.
I looked at the tissue to tell me its tale… There was a good amount of blood. I tore it. I don’t fucking believe it, but I tore it.
The next day, I expected re-admittance anyway – so in the interim – I decided to use some rubbing alcohol to clean the wound (bad idea!), and then some bacitracin to prevent any other potential infection.
As much as I loved the Ronald McDonald House and its provided freedom this past week, I needed to get back to my other “home” so I could forget about this mishap (and heal).
The next day I was given a standard spinal tap to see how the chemotherapy was progressing. The Leukemia had been long gone from my system for quite some time, but they did the tap as a precautionary check-up. After that, I was sent right to my room, the wondrous 864.
One of the more frustrating things about being neutropenic (low white blood cell levels in order to fight infection) was my diet restriction. I was unable to eat any fresh fruit (peeled or unpeeled), nor any vegetables that weren’t cooked.
I was probably one of the only people I knew that craved fruits and vegetables as much as candy and sweets (if not more so). I would dream of finally delving into my usual suspects: cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, carrots, and peas, fresh from the pod.
Since my counts were up enough, I was able to finally eat fresh salads again (along with a side of grapes). I ordered two black bowls full of veggies on my lunch tray to better assist my bowels their safe passage. God, I missed salad.
I sat scarfing down the delectable fruits of the Earth until I heard a rap on the door. My doctor came in to check up on me. After a brief conversation, I mentioned my recent battle against the throne, including my fear that I tore my anus.
“Ok, let’s see it,” She sighed. Dammit, I didn’t want her to look at it! But I knew it was necessary in order to address it, so I pulled down my shorts, and bent over the bed.
“It looks like you have an anal fissure. You definitely damaged it. This sort of thing can be surgically repaired, but the recovery is usually worse than just letting it heal on its own. Not to mention we start more chemo soon…” She thought for a moment.
“Okay, I’d let it be for now, and it’ll heal itself. But you need to continue the Senna tablets and milk of magnesia so that you can get ahead of any more constipation. Have you been able to go at all?”
“Yeah, I sure did. I’m good now.”
“Okay then. We’ll keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get any worse, but you should be all set, ok?”
Oh GREAT. You’ll keep an eye on my Brown Eye?! Peeeeeerfect.
“Yeah, sounds good.” Oh, Brother.
The doctor left, and I adjusted myself in the bed to lean on my left butt cheek instead of being centered on the painful anus. Oh great. This may take a while.
I caved and flipped on the television; Wheel of Fortune was on soon, and I didn’t want to step on tradition.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.