Let’s play a game. I’m sure you have played this before. Probably with friends at a party or maybe with your partner to get to know them better.
Would you rather: Lay on the couch all day resting or have a career? Um, a tricky one right off the bat. Since 2013, I have to lay on the couch to rest a large part of the day. Whether I’m recovering from surgery, don’t have the energy to do more or I’m in too much pain to do anything. I would love to have my career back!
Would you rather: Go to physical therapy for two hours each week or hang out with your friends for two hours each week? That seems like a no brainer. But as you might have guessed, I would rather go to physical therapy. I would really like to hang out with my girlfriends, but sitting for two hours at a restaurant or bar sounds like pure torture. I really like my physical therapist. He’s become like a father figure to me. He gives great advice, thinks outside of the box and researches what might be helpful to this body of mine and we both like cats – bonus! 😊
Would you rather: Have great sex or poop every day? Whoa! I bet you didn’t see that one coming? Let’s get real. Let’s talk about this conundrum. Because of my disability, I have sexual dysfunction. In my case, my nerves are so damaged I have major vaginal pain, along with issues trying to poop. Thankfully, I don’t have incontinence or major issues urinating. I do have problems from time to time as my nerves change and (hopefully) heal. I also take pain medicine that causes constipation. So, my answer would be…. I would LOVE to poop every day!
Pooping is one thing most people take for granted. I never knew how important it was or how awesome I would feel after a good poop until I became disabled. It is something for celebration in my world. For the past decade, I have been fighting my own body to poop.
Without even realizing it, I will go a week without pooping. A week!!! Yikes! That’s at least 21 meals and lots of snacks in between – with NO release of waste. My body backs up with toxins and poop and I look like I’m about 3-5 months pregnant. I can loose 2-5 lbs in one poop. I know this is awful for my gut, my health and my waistline.
When I first started taking pain meds, I used MiraLAX to help keep me regular. It was a challenge to keep the dose just right. Not to gassy or loose on one hand and not to constipated on the other hand. Finally, MiraLax wasn’t working and my doctor put me on a prescription laxative called Lactulose. I would play the same game with it – not too much, not too little. I would use it in conjunction with MiraLAX. This was such a consuming game because there was hardly any good middle ground. It was usually one extreme to the other. When things became too extreme, sometimes I would have to use an enema. Awful, but brings such wonderful relief.
I’ve tried all sorts of herbal supplements, home remedies and other over the counter medicine for my constipation. Most of them gave me cramps so bad I would hunch over while on the toilet begging God to take the pain away. Sometimes the gas and cramps would wake me up in the night and I’d be curled in the fetal position for hours, nauseated and in pain, waiting for it to pass. I would knead my stomach and rub my abdomen in the upside-down U (on babies it can be called I Love U tummy massage) to try to work things through my colon. The constipation got much worse during my two pregnancies.
To help with the constipation over the years, I have discovered a few tips that I do every day now. I make sure I drink at least 75 ounces of water a day. I also eat one large mixed greens salad a day. Making sure one of my meals is a salad is a very important part in the constipation game, I’ve learned. I used to eat raisin brand every morning to help with constipation. I became very nauseous ever morning for years which I blamed on my medication. I found out through a food sensitivity test that raisins, almonds and bran don’t agree with my body. Once I stopped eating these foods and about 20 others, the nausea, gas and stomach cramps magically disappeared over night.
Let’s get really real for a moment - one thing people who have constipation don’t talk about is the hemorrhoids and rectal bleeding.
I didn’t have hemorrhoids until my first pregnancy. Thankfully, they went away after that, only to come back again during the second pregnancy. Now, I struggle with them off and on. I have found that over the counter hemorrhoids ointment (not cream) works best to help the pain and discomfort. I am very glad hemorrhoids are not something I have to contend with too often because they are very painful and uncomfortable.
Rectal bleeding – what is the cause of this? Well, to be honest, constipation causes the poop to become rock hard and, at times, very large in circumference. When one tries to squeeze a large rock through a small fabric hole, tearing occurs. Hence the bleeding. And sometimes there is a lot of blood! Bright red blood filling the toilet bowl. It can be scary the first time it happens. These small, once-in-a-while tears can lead to fissures. Fissures can take a long time to heal, with every poop to reopen it, causing a lot of pain. Sometimes a doctor might have to prescribe special creams to help it heal – i.e. not fun!
A few years ago, I began taking Docusate Sodium 100 mg stool softeners. I can’t remember who turned me on to this remedy. I started off slow and discovered if I took a handful of these each morning and night, I could keep things fairly regular. As in every three to five days and not rock hard. Each handful consists of about 12-14 pills. My pain management doctor was a little shocked when I told her how much I was taking, but she understands the everyday battle caused by medicine induced constipation. I bought the stool softener 400 pills at a time and went through them in a little over a month.
After my last surgery in mid-June, my body changed. Anesthesia can cause changes in the body. It is rarely talked about but a given side effect. My body was no longer working with the Docusate stool softeners in the amount I needed to keep my bowels moving. The pills were causing terrible gas, cramping and bloating – mostly in the middle of the night taking away hours of sleep. I just can’t have that. More pain and less sleep are very bad for my body.
I went back to using MiraLAX again, playing the game of how much do I take today to keep things moving, but not over kill. It is such a fine line to walk. I thought to myself, ‘If I could poop every day, I would be so happy! I would feel so much better and be so much more comfortable. My abdomen wouldn’t be distended and rock hard. I could actually suck my stomach in because I’m not so full of poop.’ (Insert full of s*** joke here. 😊)
I mentioned my plight and my desire to poop every day at my pain management appointment last week.
“I put a lot of my patients on Movantik,” Dr. Kindness told me. “They have told me it works well for them.”
“Is it a stool softener?,” I asked. “Or does it work more like MiraLAX and use water?”
“Neither,” she responded happily. “Movantik blocks opioids from attaching to something called “mu-receptors” in the bowels. It directly targets the area impacted by pain medicine induced constipation.”
“Oh, that sounds awesome!” I exclaimed.
“You want to try it?,” she asked turning to her computer.
“Yes, let’s give it a try. I don’t think normal people realize how important it is to poop and what a struggle it is for some people.”
“I’ll put in a prescription for 30 days and you can see how you like it,” she said as she typed the prescription in to my chart and sent it to my pharmacy. “Let’s hope it works!”
I was beyond excited to try this new medicine! Pooping every day! Now that is a dream come true!
I am happy to announce, I have been taking the Movantik for a week now and have pooped every day but one. I stopped the stool softener three days ago. I’m maintaining my diet with lots of water and daily salads like normal. My damaged nerves seem to be functioning well at this moment and I’m not struggling with the brain to muscle connection to push the poop out. I desperately hope my nerves continue to work properly in this way, but I’m not holding my breath. As much as I hate taking another prescription, I’m really excited to be taking this one. One day I hope to be off all my pain meds, but until then… Happy Pooping!
Funny story: This summer we had friends over to play. The little boy somehow scraped his finger and started crying. His mom and I took him in to the house to wash and bandage it. I dug through the medicines in my bathroom drawer for the off-brand Neosporin in the yellow and white tube. Without reading the tube, I took it and a band-aid in to the kitchen to the little boy.
I held up the yellow and white tube and said to his mom, “I use this. It’s just as good as the real Neosporin.” Showing her that it was just off-brand.
She nodded and smiled. We finished up and went back outside to play.
Once they left for the day, I went back in to the kitchen and saw the medicine tube on the counter. It was NOT off-brand Neosporin, but off-brand hemorrhoid ointment. I just cracked up laughing. Now this mom thinks I use hemorrhoid cream on all my kids cuts and scrapes instead of antibiotic Neosporin. Mom fail - but so funny. I never explained it to her…