How I got into this mess in the first place: part one

Here I shall begin the tale of my diagnosis, and what led me to where I am today. Subtitle: how I went from being a brazen consumer of nearly every food and drink conceivable to being someone who now tracks said food and drink on a spreadsheet to remind myself what I can and cannot (or at least should not) consume, and the consequences therein. I’m going to split this post into a few parts to make it easier to read, since I have a sneaking suspicion it will take a bit of time to tell.

As I’ve indicated elsewhere, in September 2011 I started noticing some things that gave me pause. More specifically, I started seeing blood in my poop. You can offer up whatever psychiatric diagnosis you like for what I’m about to tell you, but I’ve always been the type of person who looks in the toilet when she’s done doing her business, which I actually wish more people would do because I feel like it would be really helpful in catching these sorts of things early before they get to be Really Serious Problems. That, and I’d love for someone to not think it weird when I find Elvis-shaped droppings hilarious. Anyway, I didn’t think anything of it at first because I thought it was related to my period, wherein blood and bloody things can often mingle with regular bodily excretions. I literally wiped and forgot, and my period ended.

But the blood didn’t. It was there all the time, on the toilet paper and in the poop, and I gave it a few weeks before I concluded that something possibly worrisome was, in fact, going on inside of me. Then I made the first mistake of this process: like any curious person with an Internet connection, I started Googling phrases along the lines of “causes of blood in stool”. Might I impart some unsolicited advice at this point? If anything at all is going on with you that makes you think something might be wrong with your health, skip this step and just call your doctor. Please. DO NOT I repeat DO NOT just start Googling things at random, because you will learn that you have everything ever that was given a name by a doctor at some time, and you will shrink into a terrified ball of human being and never want to Google anything again. My fate according to the Internet medical encyclopedias ran the gamut from hemorrhoids to colorectal cancer – and of course, where does the brain go when the gamut is run? To the worst end, of course. I became convinced that I had cancer, even though I was feeling no pain and generally didn’t otherwise feel bad (aside from the occasional exhaustion that, now that I thought about it, was otherwise completely inexplicable) and as far as I knew had zero family history of colorectal cancer. I sat on this for about 12 hours, and then picked up the phone and called the student health center at the university where I am.

The next day I saw a very nice doctor who apologized profusely for interrupting my afternoon with a digital rectal exam. I reassured her that it was okay, and she told me I had no palpable hemorrhoids or any fissures in my rectal walls. She sent me off with an order for a blood test (to see if I was anemic, which only then occurred to me as the sensible explanation for my inability to donate blood over most of the spring and summer due to low levels of iron) and a referral to the university hospital’s GI clinic. I got an appointment with them the next day, and later that week found out that my blood was in fact low enough in iron for me to be considered anemic and that I should take iron pills every day in order to get my counts back up while the bleeding was still occurring. Okay, no problem. (Cue gleeful excitement at learning that Kroger had a BOGO on iron pills that week)

The next day I went into the GI clinic as scheduled, and was a little less willing to say “no, that’s okay” when the doctor there gave me my second digital rectal exam in as many days. I wanted to tell her that she wouldn’t find anything, but since I’m the sort of person who tends not to believe something is true unless I’ve actually found it out for myself, I completely understand why she had to snap on the gloves and go in for a look. As I’d predicted, she didn’t find anything, and that’s when the REAL fun began.

(to be continued…)

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