This is a post about hemorrhoids. Does that gross you out? Because guess what, someday you might have a human being burst through your body and you will probably crap all over it in the process, so grow up.
Our bodies are gross. This column is about that. But it is also a touching tale of a doctor named Wang, and how he liberated the bowels of the woman he loves. And no it was not written by me, it was written by someone we'll call Poshterior Spice, and you can thank Intern Cheryl for the high art.
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In retrospect, I wonder if looking at the toilet paper after I wipe is something that I have always done and didn't really think about, or if I just I looked that day, because I sensed something was wrong. Suffice it to say, I did look at the toilet paper, and there was blood on it. It was not a lot of blood, and it was bright red, which even I know meant the bleeding was not internal. Still, any kind of blood coming from your ass is alarming. "Holy shit," I thought. "I have anal cancer." Then I immediately thought of Farrah Fawcett, which was annoying. Has my brain been so corrupted by tabloids that I can't even think about cancer without invoking a celebrity? And wait-how did I even know Farrah Fawcett had anal cancer?
Who had printed that? Must have been Star. How awful for her. Because let's face it, while all cancer is horrific anal cancer has the added bonus of being really really really embarrassing. The only disease I can think of that is actually more embarrassing than anal cancer is Elephantitis of the balls, which is, at least, fun to say. I bet Farrah first discovered she had anal cancer just like this I thought moodily, sitting on the toilet. The stars, so like us! I pictured her all skinny and scared, clutching a piece of soiled toilet paper and wondering if she could trust her doctor or make him sign a nondisclosure agreement.
I decided I would not tell anyone about what I had seen in the bathroom. I intuitively grasped that "I have unexplained rectal bleeding," is not a phrase that anyone wants to hear. The Internet was of little help: My rectal bleeding could be caused by hemroids, it said, but hemroids are more of a male problem. What I probably have is anal cancer.
I would just wait it out, I said to myself, and adopted the strategy, oft-employed by those of us with insufficient healthcare plans, of deep denial. Either the condition, whatever it was, would go away, or rivers of blood would come pouring out my anus and I'd be forced to take action. I conducted the rest of the day's activities with the solemn dignity of Mandy Moore in Walk to Remember, taking care to be extra pleasant to my coworkers so that they would say nice things about me when I died (of unknown causes).
Several days passed, and I forgot all about the blood and the cancer. I resumed being antisocial and sarcastic at the office. Then, perhaps inevitably, I had to shit again.
That night I woke up from a dream about a picnic hosted by Ryan O'Neal sweating and panicked. I dialed the hospital and was assigned an appointment with a Dr. Wang. I joked on the phone that this will be the first wang I've ever had in my butt. Silence. "Er, great then," I stammered. "Thanks." Why. Why do I try to joke with the colo-rectal people? What is wrong with me?
After listening patiently to my hysterical tirade against medical message board Chicken Littles and Star, Dr. Wang instructed me lie on my side, facing away from him. "I'm going to tell you everything I'm doing, so they'll be no surprises," he said. I heard the squirting of KY.
"I'm inserting a small camera into your rectum now," he said soothingly, as though this happens all the time. "I can that there's no internal bleeding. I can see hard stool up there."
"Is it possible to take prints home?" I asked. Why do I do this? But Dr. Wang chuckled. Yay!
"Now I'm going to insert this, so I can see the edge of your rectum," he says. He dangles a metal object shaped like a large crooked index finger in front of me. It looks like a prop from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
"Oh," I say meekly. Moments later, I sense that even if I get really poor, selling my anal virginity on eBay is no longer an option.
"You have hemorrhoids," said Dr. Wang, as I sheepishly adjust my clothes.
"I thought only 60-year-old men got hemorrhoids," I said.
He shakes his head. "Many more women get them than men, actually," he said. "But no one ever wants to talk about it." He says this with a trace of bitterness. Dr. Wang can find no one who wants to talk about their ass with him! How sad he must be.
Apparently, women have a lot more problems with constipation than men, and when you strain to pass a bowel movement, it causes blood vessels in your butt to swell. If you remain constipated, and thusly your shits are hard, it irritates the swelling and the swollen blood vessels tear, which causes the bleeding. It's very common in women in their twenties and thirties, especially those who, like me, take birth control pills.
"No one ever tells you this!" I said. "They should show you a film strip in school! The Second Period."
"I know," Dr. Wang said glumly.
While Dr. Wang talked about how softening the stool with fiber and over-the-counter stool softeners will relieve the hemroids, I tried to maintain eye contact, because it must be hard to be a colorectal surgeon who no one ever wants to make eye contact with. He seemed to appreciate this and opened up a little.
"When I first met my wife, she only had a bowel movement around once a week," he said. "She used to get bloated, to cry out from the pain. And she's little, like you! She's thin. I used to say to her, I can feel the stool when I press on your belly."
This, I think, has to be the most romantic thing any man has said to a woman.
"I started her on fiber supplements," he said proudly, "the drink, not the pills. The pills barely do anything. In a few weeks, she was much better." He pressed a package of Konsyl into my hands and smiled paternally.
Dr. Wang and his wife have been married for eight years, and in all that time she has been hemorrhoid-free. Now, he says, she shits at least every other day.