Now what?: part three

Warning: this might get gross. You’ve been warned, though I’ll try to euphemize myself.

One of the great things about UC is that already sensitive areas of one’s life become a total guessing game that gets played seemingly on the whims of the bathroom gods. I saw a commercial on TV the other day advertising something dealing with Crohn’s disease, and the crux of the ad was that whatever product was being sold had the solution that could help sufferers of Crohn’s stop asking “what if?” – as in, “what if I’m at a party and suddenly have to use the restroom?” or “what if I’m giving my job-saving presentation and I suddenly have an intense flare-up?” Ten years ago I’d probably have made fun of the woman in the commercial acting out those scenarios, and even three years ago my grad school friends and I joked about leaking orifices during our masters’ exams, but not any more. I get it, and it sucks, because you really, seriously never do know when a flare-up is going to occur.*

I’ve read that for women with UC, their symptoms tend to worsen during their periods, and that flare-ups can be more common at this time. I was hoping it wasn’t true, but you’d think that the fact that I first noticed all of this starting during my period would have been a big red flag (no pun intended. Honestly, I swear – you’ll know when I’m trying) to the contrary.  Until my diagnosis, I didn’t pay too much attention to my periods, because they’ve never caused me much trouble in the eighteen years I’ve been experiencing them, especially after having gone on the Pill many years ago. Sure, I’ll get the usual cravings for red meat and chocolate about a week out, and for a 48-hour window of time will have temper tantrums only fixed by yet more chocolate, but I’ve never experienced the debilitating cramps and bloating that some women go through every single time they menstruate – and often for a week or more. If there are cramps, they’re minor; some foods make me bloat, so I’ve started taking care to avoid them. But by and large, I’ve been doing okay as far as periods go.

I’m nervously happy to say that that hasn’t really changed in the past couple of months, but I’m two days away from starting and have been having cramps and stabby-pains for two days. Last night I had a rotten headache that could have been the result of dehydration, and today my cramps have moved from my ever-dependable left side – the usual scene of the crime – to my right side. They’re nowhere near as bad as the stabby-pains I was having on Saturday (for more on that, see the post “Frustration”), but they’re still enough of a thing to make me uncomfortable.

The worst part of the pains, though, has been the gas that’s been accompanying them. While it could just be something in the past couple of days that I’ve eaten – whole-wheat pasta, a negligible amount of ground beef, a couple of spoonfuls of mayonnaise are the immediate culprits that spring to mind – I’m nervous that it’s just the kind of gas I’m going to get around this time of the month. I work in an office with several other people, and I can’t exactly run out into the hallway and fart, mostly because the trail would follow me back in. So I have to either wait for most people to not be around, or go to the bathroom, or just cross my fingers and let it go and hope that nobody notices. My inner 12-year-old boy would be delighted at this, but it’s a bit embarrassing; heaven forbid it happen to me when I’m teaching, you know? And have you been around me and noticed me laughing less? It’s because I’m afraid to, too hard, for fear that I’ll let something slip by accident.

A double bonus of this gas is that I’m not always sure if it’s just gas, or possibly something a little more… solid. THAT’s a fun game to play: Gas or Solid or maybe even oops it’s Liquid? It really is the “what if?” question every single time, because I’m never really sure.

I also have had to start allotting myself extra time to go to the toilet, because try as I might, I cannot go without using both door #1 and door #2. Well, okay, if I try extra hard I can avoid door #2, but it feels pretty bad to give it a pass (okay, that WAS intentional) and I’d rather not do it unless I’m trying to keep my medicine in.** This means that a simple sit-down is no longer just a simple sit-down, and that I will have to spend some additional time cleaning up, if you know what I mean. Couple this with the fact that I’m now going much more frequently because a) I feel like I have to investigate what’s behind door #2 at least once per hour and b) I drink so much more water than I used to, which if you know me was a lot; well, it’s more, because I feel constantly dehydrated possibly due to the thing in part a), or as a side effect from my medicine, or who knows. Anyway, couple those things – frequent toilet-hopping plus an increased need for cleaning materials – and I start to wonder why I’ve not yet taken out stock in Charmin or Snugglebutt or whatever. Seriously, I go through so much paper that I’m starting to feel really guilty at the environmental footprint I’m leaving (not to mention all of that flushing I’m doing, which I really do try to resist until the point of no return. Literally.). I could probably keep a CVS employed all by myself through sales of the Paper Goods aisle alone, and that’s to say nothing of what I went through during the preparation for my colonoscopy.  But, I mean, what if – here we go again! – I’m a houseguest and I have a particularly bad experience with door #2, and I clog their workings, and then have to explain myself? It’s not the worst thing, no, but I also don’t want to be that person constantly running off to spend time with the porcelain god and possibly missing out on lots of good times.

Which, I guess, brings me to a fairly logical transition into the next part of the “now what?” posts: the intangibles, or things I might be sacrificing in the name of digestive health. I’ll also discuss other ephemera and random thoughts.

*I’m pretty sure I can’t use all of this as a way to get out of my PhD exams, nor do I exactly want occasion to do so. But I can see this now: “So, K, tell us what you know about War and Peace”. [five seconds pass] “…pfffffffft.” [everyone looks around awkwardly and stifles faces of extreme displeasure] [finally, one of the professors speaks] “Well?” Me: “No, that actually is what I know about that work.” “…Oh. Okay then. Should we move on?” (I’ve never read War and Peace, though I’m made to understand that it’s somewhat compulsory reading for seekers of a PhD in Russian language and literature. Ever the stubborn one, I’m valiantly attempting to prove otherwise…)

**Yes, you can deduce from that that my current medicine is not orally administered. I call it my “magic bullet”; if you’re curious, the name of it is Canasa, and in my head I’ve started calling it Canasta because it sounds like much more fun if you think of it in terms of being a card game, or a musical instrument… that you wear on your fingers. Damn. Well, it’s still a party for someone, anyway.

EDIT: I wrote the draft of this post on a Monday, so it’s ever so slightly outdated at its time of publication. Whoops…

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