Everyone’s got a butt!
I’ve traveled the world and there is one unifying behavior that is consistent throughout the sands of the Middle East, the museums of Europe, the baseball fields of Cleveland or the PTA meetings in Riverdale. One can talk about any physical ailment, in graphic detail, as long as it doesn’t involve your butt. The nasty seeping wound your husband has on his shoulder, the bone sticking out of little Billy’s broken ankle, the mass the doctors found on Aunt Sally’s gallbladder or the lumps in your own breast are free game. Everyone talks about it; everyone wants to know about it. In the course of the conversation, everyone will come up with a follow on story about their Aunt Martha, in the adult version of the playground standard ‘I can gross you out more than you can gross me out’! Whether you are from the Marcus Welby era, or you were baptized into the ‘medical world’ by Scrubs, everyone loves a good medical story. As long as it doesn’t involve your butt! And, as iconic as Marcus and the docs on Scrubs were, they will only talk about butts as a, well, butt of a joke!
But here’s a clue. Here’s what I have discovered after extensive internet research, and many many hours of my own investigation. Everyone’s got a butt. Some may not be able to find it with two hands, but believe me, it’s there. And, here’s the real revelation: your butt can get sick! Really. It can. I know. My butt was sick.
Four years ago, to appease my doctor and get her off my back, I went for a colonoscopy. I was young, athletic, drug free and healthy. There was no way anything would be wrong and I was absolutely loathe to put myself through what I determined at the time to be the degrading exercise of having the gastroenterologist and his excavating team trek up my butt and through my colon. What a complete waste of time! Until, about six inches into the field trip, my doctor discovered Tom the Tumor. I had rectal cancer. And thus started my four year journey through the world of the butt.
What I discovered was two things. First people are almost okay as long as you say you have colon cancer, however the minute you say the reality – I have rectal cancer – they get a glazed look over the eyes, you know the one mom use to get when you’d let go a big one in church? And second, even after you’ve had your colon surgeon, your gastroenterologist, your radiology oncologist and your GP all turning you over on your left side and running various implements up your butt to examine you, you’d think you’d be able to openly tell him/her what your latest pains are but sadly, no, you still get embarrassed. You still hold back. It’s still the taboo subject of ‘your butt’.
Of the 10 most shoplifted items in the US, Preparation H is 9th on the list. Just slightly below baby formula and home pregnancy tests. My guess is that, just like everyone else, when you go to the pharmacy to purchase your butt pain medicine, you’ll very casually walk down the aisle, look through the shelves, find the Preparation H, then swivel your head to see if any one is looking before reaching down and snatching up the tube faster than a rattlesnake wrangler. Note: SOP says that if someone else is in the aisle when you get to your Preparation H section, you should either stare intently at the first aid ointments on the top shelf or suddenly remember a dire need to investigate the fiber content of the meal bars in the next aisle. Once the coast is clear, you again swoop to the PH shelf, grab your intended target and head to the checkout counter, making sure you have two or three other items in your hand so that it appears the PH is just an after thought…and certainly not for you! If you are still uncertain as to whether someone might think you would have a problem, you often resort to starting a slightly louder than normal conversation with the checkout clerk on how your hubby is home, poor thing. Enough to throw the scent off you!
So, what do we do? We certainly can’t hope for a collective maturity to slam into society this week nor can we continue to leave these very real medical conditions under the table. It’s time for us to give equal time to our butts….and their pains.
First and foremost: butts aren’t supposed to hurt. Unless you’ve done a few thousand squats this past week, your butt shouldn’t be hurting. If it’s hurting, go see your doctor. Tell them exactly what is happening, in graphic detail. If your butt hurts, they need to know. What you want to make note of to tell the docs is:
- · Blood
- o Color: is it dark red or black (meaning it’s traveling through the lower intestine longer) or is it bright red (meaning it’s being generated closer to the end of the intestines)?
- o Location: is it mixed in with the stool, on the surface, drops in the bowl, on the toilet paper?
- o Amount: are we talking a couple of drops like when you prick your finger or are we talking clots and pooling?
- o Time: are you seeing blood every time you go to the bathroom, sometimes, only once?
- o Duration: did this happen for the first time this morning, has it been on and off for a few weeks, has this been constant for months and you were just afraid to go ask until you read this article?
- · Pain
- o Location: is it an internal feeling, an external feeling or right at the opening?
- o Type: is it shooting pain, burning, aching, searing or itching? Or a combination?
- o Time: is it all the time? After, before, during a bowel movement?
- · Stools
- o Size: are they normal size for you (like they’ve always been) or are they slimmer and tinier?
- o Frequency: how often do you have a movement? How long between movements?
- o Consistency: are they usually solid, usually liquid? Are there un-digested food solids in there? Are they mushy? Are they hard?
- o Incontinent: do you ever have leakage? A lot? A little?
- · Visual
- o If you look in a mirror (okay, get over it, we all do!) do you see anything? Any lumps? Growths? Redness? Rashes?
- · Scent
- o Have you noticed a change in the smell? Has it become like rotten eggs? Rather pungent? Pay attention. This really means something.
- · Gas
- o Have you been passing gas more than usual lately? Do you feel bloated and can’t pass gas? Has the smell changed?
When you go to your doctor, take a list of your observations with you. Trust me, if you don’t you’ll forget half of what you want to tell them.
You’ll also want to make a list of the answers to the questions the doc will probably ask you, such as:
- · Have you changed your diet recently?
- · Do you eat a lot of any one kind of food (have you devoured five cans of pickled beets this week? Did you attend the 3rd Annual Cauliflower and Cabbage Cook Off and gorge your way through the entrees? )
- · Are you under any undue stress?
- · Are you taking any medications (over the counter, prescribed, offered behind the bus stop by a man in a trench coat). Tell the doc everything you’ve taken. Everything!
On the plus side (yes, Virginia, there is a plus side here), most everything that could be wrong with your butt is treatable if caught quickly enough. After four years of dealing with my butt team, and earning my own stripes as a cancer survivor, I’d love to tell you that once you get past the first doctor’s visit, everything will seem so much less embarrassing. But I’d be lying. No one, however, ever died of embarrassment. People do, however, die of sick butts! Get yours checked out!