Usually when people ask me how I’m doing since my surgery, I give them a brief overview. “Oh, things are okay. I’m still getting used to the new digestive setup, but there are little signs of progress, and overall I’m feeling better than before.” That’s the routine line that I’ve committed to memory, and while the content of the message is true, it omits the difficulties I still have when it comes to bathroom visits. So, yeah, this is going to be a post about shit.
A booklet I was given while I was in hospital stated that one common problem people with pelvic pouches experience is that they can have a bowel movement, feel like they’re done, but then have to go again a few minutes later. The booklet suggested taking some time and trying to relax on the toilet so that the pouch could properly empty. The challenge with a pouch is that emptying it depends less on your ability to squeeze shit through your bowels and more on gravity. So after one rush of stool, it can take a while for fecal matter further back in the pouch to drop down and make its way out.
When I first got home from hospital, I found myself going to the bathroom 6-7 times a day, which is pretty good for someone fresh out of surgery, but the problem was that I would spend 15-20 minutes on the can during each bathroom visit. That’s a lot of time wasted over the course of a day, and a significant sleep disruption at night.
I still routinely take my phone with me to the bathroom so I can look at Twitter, or browse the internet, or check my email while I’m waiting for my pouch to empty. I don’t take my phone to the bathroom in the middle of the night though, because I found that engaging with the online world at 3 a.m., even if only for a few minutes, makes it harder for me to fall asleep when I finally do return to bed.
It’s now over 8 weeks since I was released from hospital, and I still go about 7 times a day, and that usually includes one trip in the middle of the night. It’s a rare treat to sleep through the night without having to get up and go, and that’s happened maybe 5 times over the last 8 weeks. I try not to spend as much time on the toilet each time I go – I try to limit each trip to 10 minutes – and I try not to go to bathroom every time I feel the need to.
The problem with holding it in is that it’s uncomfortable at best and painful at worst. Thankfully I haven’t had any accidents while trying to hold in the stool, but it’s really frustrating when the urges come a few minutes apart. For instance, last night I watched the Raptors win their franchise record 48th win of the season, and over the course of an hour and a half, I fought back the urge to shit about 6 times; roughly every 15 minutes. That’s no way to watch a basketball game. That’s no way to do anything.
Add on to the frustration the fact that even after a couple of hours of holding it, the damn pouch still takes a while to properly empty when I finally do go. Fuck, eh?
And oh yeah, there’s the butt burn. The skin around my butthole is still irritated from having to go so often, and from the fact that each bowel movement comes with some liquid, in addition to some small formed pieces. I use skin creams and a bidet and wet wipes and all the things you’re supposed to use to deal with butt burn but it’s still a problem. The term “butt burn” may be a little misleading, in my case at least, because more than a burning sensation, it’s an incredible itchiness that proves so maddening. I find that the burn/itch usually isn’t too bad in general, and it only really becomes evident when I really have to go, or immediately after I go. I now keep a box of wet wipes in my backpack so that when I inevitably need to use a bathroom outside my house, I can have something softer and more comfortable than dry toilet paper to clean up with.
One last note, this one’s on farting. Farting with a pelvic pouch is kind of a big deal. In the first few weeks after my surgery, I couldn’t pass gas on its own, only with stool. Now I can fart when I’m lying down on my side, and I find that it’s easier when I’m on my left side. I can pass gas at night without having to get up and go to the bathroom, which is a plus, but passing gas while seated is still tricky, and passing gas while standing is still risky. If you and I are alone in an elevator we both get a whiff of something funky, it was you.
I worry that the long bathroom trips and numerous bathroom trips and the incessant urges and the uncomfortable holds will become the norm for me. It’s almost enough to make me want an ostomy again. Almost. I really want to start running again, but I’m worried that all the bodily motion will just result in more urges to go, and I don’t want to mar the activity I love the most. My body has already rendered some of my favourite things far less enjoyable than they used to be. I try to remind myself that things were difficult when I first had my ostomy, but my bowels did eventually adjust and improve after several months. I just hate the prospect of more waiting. My patience reserves are sapped.
I’ve never played Battleshits, but I think I’d be good at it. After all, my pouch is structured to create multiple blasts. I could totally sink your destroyer, but I’m not exactly happy about that.