Sunday, February 06, 2005

IBS (part one)

I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

It's a stupid fucking disease to have because:

A) It makes me swell up like a pregnant sow and shit hot acid and

B) It has an impossibly stupid name with a kind of you're-just-cranky connotation that compounds the embarassment of having a chronic medical condition that revolves around shit, that makes you take shits of bizarre consistencies at highly inappropriate times and renders said shit-taking just ridiculously painful.

It's actually pretty much gone now but back when I had it I didn't know what it was. That made it worse. Doctors talked about cancer, colitis, Krohn's-- the type of stuff where they have to slice out your colon and your asshole, drill a hole in your side and sew in a plastic pipe attached to a shitbag that you have to empty by hand. What effect this would have on my already limited ability to get laid I dared not speculate. But for months I would just at random have horrible clawing pains in my belly, and then some appalingly discolored substance would fly out of my ass on very short notice and with no regard for my surroundings. I shat myself at work, for instance, several times. Once in a meeting. I shat myself at home and on my bike. You'd think that with repitition any experience becomes normal but shitting oneself infront of one's peers is definitely an exception.

For months there were two dramas going on: one where I was trying to lead a normal life despite the fact that my belly was swollen like a watermelon and I might at any time shit my pants, and another where I was constantly going to doctors and hospitals and being told that it might just be some random infection or it might be some monster cancerous tumor that would kill me very soon. Eventually I had to go to a special lab for some final tests, a hardcore battery designed to ferret out even the most obscure bacteria. They gave me a kit with a series of different scoops, smear cards and jars-- the idea was that I had to take samples of my shit for four days and preserve them in all these different media. They recommended laying saran wrap over the toilet, but when the time came to take the first sample I decided to hot dog it and just hold the cup under my ass.

Over the course of these procedures I learned an awful lot about shit. Measuring out precise amounts with little medical swabs and spoons I got to know it in a very intimate way. For one thing, shit stinks. You knew that already. But the stink of shit when you're practically holding in your hands, the stink when you're concentrating on it up close and not neatly dropping into a sanitized porcelain pool is truly gut-wrenching. It's like poison gas, a fume so offensive you can feel it infecting your eyeballs and tongue. You come to loathe and fear your own body for creating such an abhorrent thing. The warmth it radiates through the plastic sample bag foully conjures the stewing heat of your insides. It makes the finger-sized lump feel like a living being, a vulnerable little mammal trembling in your hands. The composition surprised me: it's thicker and harder than you would think. And it's fibrous, permeated with wiry hairlike strands that hold the mass together. As such I had to saw through the chunks with my blunt little spoon to get the right size, straining and gagging while my roomate pounded on the bathroom door.

MORE TO COME

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