last Monday i went to mount sinai hospital in harlem for surgery. my appointment was for 10:30 am. they treated me around 2:30 pm. i woke up an hour later, oblivious to the magnitude of my tenuous physical condition. i felt disoriented, fatigued, groggy - and hungry as a muhfuh.
this was my first experience with surgery. as such, i had no blueprint on how to deal (read: not complain) with the unknown. i was instructed to neither eat nor drink after midnight. i complied. also, i was kindly accompanied by a trusted friend, whom helped ease my anxiety, fear and uncertainty. without an escort home i would've had to re-schedule.
about 15 months ago my primary care physician was concerned i might have anal cancer. i was treated by a specialist who did a biopsy, pap smear and tried to remove some of the pre-cancerous cells. he suggested i follow up in six months. i missed that appointment but saw him the first week of january.
he inserted a tube (with a scope) inside my anus to assess the damage, then he applied some alcohol to my anal area while asking me to relax. when he tried to stick me with a needle i screamed like a white girl with a nightmare on elm street. real talk. the pain was unbearable. he seemed (!) frustrated and said i'd have to be put to sleep for the procedure to work...
i have anal condyloma. i don't know anyone on the planet with anal condyloma. do you? a google search mentioned embarrassment and psychosocial stress are common symptoms. the surgeon said laser treatment can be effective but is not a cure. he said there may, or may not be, cancerous cells dormant in my anus. i was instructed to follow up in two weeks and be monitored every six months.
i asked him would i need to change my diet after surgery. he said no. i asked him would the surgery affect my bowel movement. he said no. i asked him will i feel any pain during the surgery. he said no. i was given lidocaine ointment, percosets, stool softeners and a cream to ease my pain. he told me i'd be sore for a week. and i am. ten days later.
he was dead ass wrong how surgery affects my bowel movement.
it took more than 24 hours to take a shit. when i did, i felt like i was in labor. i squeezed and squeezed and squeezed and it seemed like a large brick was coming out of me slow as molasses. i was unable to get it all out, as my body contorted like a gymnast in the olympics for half an hour. the pain was unlike anything i've experienced, which is why it's taking me this long to write about it.
i've been in physical pain everyday. everyday. i've been constipated daily. the ointments and percosets gave me temporary relief - but it still hurt to cough, laugh, move or sit. i feared each bowel movement because i knew i'd have to endure more pain. i felt a burning, stinging, throbbing sensation which lasted for hours and hours and hours.
i didn't understand this pain. i had no language for this pain. i wanted this pain to immediately disappear and never come back and it only got worse each breathing moment. sadly, i had a number of disheartening thoughts which included suicide. i know god will never give me anything more than i can handle but i felt like this pain was more than i can handle.
a couple of days ago i called my primary care physician at home. i was desperate for relief and willing to do whatever it takes to heal. she suggested i stop taking percosets because they constipate my anus, which makes bowel movements painful. she told me to take two 800 mg of ibuprofen daily, warm baths with epsom salt, use witch hazel on my anus and lots of lidocaine ointment afterward.
she also suggested i eat fruit in the morning, salad for lunch and vegetables for dinner. i was grateful for her input because i was still indulging in fried foods and microwaveable dinners. it took me a week to realize my unhealthy diet impacts my bowel movement and because the area is so delicate i need to eat softer foods which can be digested without disturbance.
its almost 4:10 wednesday morning. i just took a warm bath with epsom salt. i'm listening to bill withers. i'm grateful for the family members, friends and other folks who've prayed for me. i'm grateful for the phone calls, e-mails and texts graced with loving energy. a loving god has angels everywhere. i'm starting to see a light in the midst of this darkness.
thank you god. thank you god. thank you god.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.