Monday, February 11, 2008

My Stool Sample Adventure Part I: Oh S**t, They Want WHAT?!

Before I started this blog, I decided that I was going to be brutally honest about my entire cancer experience. I wanted to record exactly what it was like for me so that maybe it would be a bit easier for other people with disabilities to feel comfortable talking about their experiences, too. Well, today is one of those days where doing this isn't exactly easy for me. I decided to write about this particular topic in depth and I'm not even sure why I feel like it's important for me to do so but, in my heart, I really think it is.

A few days ago, I wrote about my latest doctor's visit. While I was there, my doctor told me that she wanted a stool sample. She said that I could give up the goods now or do it in the comfort of my home and bring it back to the hospital. Unfortunately, I always get a "nervous stomach" whenever it's time for me to go to the doctor. That means I'd already emptied my bowels shortly before my conversation with her, so I went down to the lab and picked up the little brown paper bag and brought it home with me.

I could pretend as if I'm totally cool with all of this stuff but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the idea of someone, literally, examining my shit is pretty damned embarrassing. I mean, to each his own and all but I prefer to stay as far away from poop--everybody's poop--as I can and it's hard for me to really believe that someone could do this and not be disgusted.

I brought the bag home and promptly cast it aside out of sight. I knew I was going to have to deal with it but I didn't feel up to doing it yet. A couple of days passed and my cold symptoms weren't getting any better, so The German made an appointment for me to see my doctor again. That meant I couldn't put off dealing with the stool sample issue. That morning before my appointment, while The German was still sleeping, I finally brought the brown paper bag into the bathroom to see what I had to do with it.

My mom once had to provide a stool sample and she showed me the little packet they gave her to use. It looked like this:
For two days in a row, you use the little sticks they provide and put a tiny dab of poop on the card and then you bring it back to your doctor. Okay, that's not so bad, right? You poop into the toilet as usual, poke it with a stick, touch the card with it and you're done.

That's what I thought I was going to have to do and even that felt like a pretty daunting task to me. However, when I took a look at the instructions on the bag it said,

Write your name (last, first) on the lid of the specimen cup.
Return specimen container in the bag given. This bag has pertinent information needed by the laboratory.
Do not fill the container. We need about 1/4 cup of stool.
If you are given more than one container, do not collect two on the same day.
Return stools within 24 hours of collection.
Do not take oil purgative
Return stools Monday-Friday, 7:30-4:30

Yeah, that's right. I shit you not! They wanted a fourth of a cup! That's a helluvalot more than the two little dabs that my mom had to provide for her test. I looked inside of the bag and there was a cup like this

and a stick like this

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(sans any yummy chocolate fudge on the end)

I wasn't sure exactly how I was supposed to use the popsicle stick or whether it was okay for me to let the poop fall into the toilet and then collect it, so all I could think of was to hold the cup under my bottom while I sat on the commode and do a direct drop. Sheesh! You'd think they would have provided more detailed instructions. I mean, it's not as if the average person has a lot of experience with doing this sort of thing.

I really wasn't even sure whether I provided the right amount. The little container didn't even have any measurement marks on the side of it, so I wound up having to guesstimate. After that, I placed the little container back in the paper bag and put it away where no one would happen to see it if they came in the bathroom before I left. Fortunately, I have a private bathroom connected to my room, so it doesn't get a lot of foot traffic unless we have a lot of visitors over.

That morning, I brought the bag and its contents with me to the hospital. We were late for the appointment so The German offered to take the bag down to the lab while I went up to the doctor's office. I was really grateful for that.

You know, he's not the least bit grossed out by anything he's had to do for my body. I've had partners who weren't able to do that. Some people just aren't going to be willing to wet the stitches on your perineum or clean off the fluid coming from the healing holes in your chest. I mean, when I say it like that, does it sound like anything someone would want to do? Still, I think that anyone who says they love you should be willing to do what it takes to help you live your life. Sometimes that means supporting your partner while they go to school. Sometimes it means cleaning bedpans or colostomy bags. But you know what? That's real life! If you're not up for that, then you're not up for being involved with another person because the stuff that's happened to me could happen to anyone. I mean that. Anyone.

So, if you're grossed out by what I've written here, maybe you should take this opportunity to engage in a little introspection. Figure out what real love is. It doesn't have shit to do with Valentine's Day or walks in the park or mind-blowing orgasms. It's all about what you are willing to do with life deals you unexpected blows, when (no pun intended) the shit hits the fan. Are you going to do what it takes or are you going to fall apart when the person you love needs your support and acceptance the most?


annaham said...

I'm sorry that you had to go through such a bizarre experience, but your post about it, as usual, conveys humor, intelligence and total awesomeness.

I absolutely agree with the last paragraph. :)

Anonymous said...

This post says more to me about love than any poetry or verse could possibly do.

It makes me think about how lucky I am to have found someone who stands with me through the worst of life as well as the best. The worst is unpleasant, brutal and unpredictable. But it's life isn't it ?

BLESSD1 said...

Yeah...sounds like "The German" really loves you. I am truly happy for you both. You really deserve it, Bint. :-)

La Lubu said...

Whoa, nelly! They wanted a quarter cup? Sheesh. I wouldn't have worried about an exact measurement either. If they need it that exact, they can do that in the lab!

But I'm right with you on the love. Love is messy. Sometimes literally. And it's always best to be prepared for the unexpected; it will always arrive, sooner or later.

Anonymous said...

Bint I'm SO glad you stopped by my blog and introduced yourself. Now - lets talk cancer induced stress and loose bowels, huh?

Poor woman is going to be so sorry she ever met me :)

yanub said...

Oh, poop. I had thought that stool samples were always taken with those little sticks, too. At least, now I won't be shocked if I ever get shoved one of those cups, so, um, thanks for the education.

Anonymous said...

honestly thank you for this post. the other day my doctor ordered a stool sample and said the nurse would be in to draw blood and explain how to collect the sample. well there was no explanation given and i didnt want to ask "um how do i collect my stool" so this helps me out a lot because mine is like the same container and all

Anonymous said...

You know what love, and life, is truly about.

Anonymous said...

Amen. To all of it. Im a mother, I've been cleaning up poop from my kids for well, literally years. When I had to get a stool sample on myself I nearly gagged. I didnt think that was going to be so hard on me, but it was. Embarrasing? OH hell yes. There are some things in this world that are just intensly private.
As far as love is concerned, you are absolutly right on. Screw the ideas about candle lit dinners and who buys you flowers. You want love? Find the person who holds your hair back while your puking your guts out, or grabs the kleenex to wipe the snot you didnt know was dripping down your nose. THATS love.

bint alshamsa said...

I'm really pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have commented on this post. I'm really glad that others have been able to relate to it and maybe even be helped by it.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you one hundred percent on your paragraph about love. You can tell anyone oh i love you...i love you...but actions speak louder than words. Thanks to my partner of 8 years Alberto for always being by my i sit here in my hospital bed, hooked up to my PICC Line and my TPN flowing thru my vein...Alberto is right here next to me in a hospital chair waiting until 6am to leave for another workday that consists of 2 hours of drive time and another 12-14 hours of work. Then he returns back to my side. My one true love. Thank you mi amor.