Never dumpster-dive for plastic containers. (Warning: Immature language.)Posted by Donna Freedman on Aug 1, 2011 | 25 comments
Getting older is not for whiners. Since my late 40s, midlife health concerns have included thyroid imbalance, elevated blood pressure and creeping weight gain. A couple of mammograms looked iffy but turned out to be OK. The asthma could be better.
Mostly I’ve handled these issues with equanimity. But that was before the doctor ordered me to spread my own poo on a chemically treated card.
For three days in a row. Oh, and I wasn’t allowed to ingest citrus, red meat or ibuprofen beforehand.
It’s called a fecal occult blood test, and it detects traces of blood that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Vessels around large polyps or cancers sometimes leak, but usually not a noticeable amount.
The test is no joke, yet I’m having considerable fun at its expense. How could I not laugh? I was painting with my own feces!
One of two tests
The American Cancer Society suggests a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50. Because my mom’s side of the family has a serious history of colon cancer, I had my first colonoscopy at age 48.
Polyps were found, so I repeated the procedure a couple of years later. I passed (ahem) that test, so the doc said, “OK, every five years from now on.”
Incidentally, the test itself was a piece of cake. I was zonked out on Versed before they turned on the camera. No, it was the pre-test purge that tied me in knots. The taste and salinity of the clean-out liquid could not be disguised by the white grape juice with which I mixed it. I kept it down through sheer force of will, i.e., “If you throw this up you’ll have to drink another bottle.”
So yahoo! A five-year break was mine.
Well, except for the poo on a stick.
Yes, they give you little sticks to use, along with some tissue paper. But not the kind you’re thinking about. This paper was more like one of those seat covers found in your classier public restrooms. According to the instructions, it should be allowed to float on the surface of the water, with the edges sticking to the sides of the toilet bowl.
Yet it went on to say that the sample should be obtained “before it touches the water.” Um, you just told me the paper could float on the water. Make up your mind!
The instructions also noted that samples could also be collected in “any clean, dry container.” Which brings me to the reason you should never scavenge plastic containers from the trash: You have no way of knowing what they once held.
You don’t know where it’s been
The container in question may say that it formerly held “buttery” spread. But now? Let’s just say that the word “buttery” is four-sevenths correct. Also that taking that container from the trash would give dumpster diving a whole new and entirely unpleasant meaning.
Yes, I’d put it in a bag and tied it shut. But I’ve seen people rummaging around in the trash and opening bags.
I’ve long been in the habit of keeping old butter, cream-cheese and sour-cream containers. Usually I use them for leftovers or to send homemade jam home with my sister or a friend. I was mighty glad to see the end of this one. So to speak.
When the final sample had been taken I ate an orange, to celebrate. Later in the day I walked to Arby’s and had an Angus Cool Deli sandwich – not just because it had red meat in it, but because it had red meat and I had a coupon. I may take some ibuprofen, too, just because I can.
Tomorrow I get to mail my poo. Yes, in the regular mail with a single first-class stamp. I can’t put it in the mailbox tonight because the instructions told me it had to “air-dry” first. Eeewww.
Take charge of your health
This post is full of terrible puns but its subject is absolutely serious. Get yourself checked out.
So what if it means having a camera sent north from your south end? You won’t feel a thing. Colon cancer hurts a lot.
Don’t have insurance? Community health centers operate on a sliding scale basis, as do county or state public health departments. To find a community health center or public health clinic in your region, click here.
If you’re over 50, man up/woman up and ask your doctor about an annual fecal occult test, too. Give up the oranges and Advil for a few days and deal with the ick factor. It’s nowhere near as gross as changing a diaper. Besides, you can wear gloves if you want.
It’s a minor inconvenience that yields major peace of mind. Hope everything comes out all right.