Ode to a Hemorrhoid: What Happens When You Get One

This title is a bit misleading because it turns out we all have hemorrhoids all the time. You have one right now. Multiple, actually. They’re little nubs inside your bum that keep poo from flying out of your ass like a bird’s. What most of us call “a hemorrhoid” is an infection or inflammation of one of the aforementioned nubs.

Many things can cause this to happen, and the enlarged hemorrhoid may be internal or external. The cream-and-donut treatment is for external hemorrhoids. Recently, I had an inflamed hemorrhoid that was internal. (If I had to guess the cause, I’d say it was my habit of sitting cross-legged.)

Early symptoms of an internal inflammation is a slight stinging sensation around the anus and bright red blood dripping into the toilet after a dook. Many people will put off having this looked at just to avoid having to explain their symptoms to another human being. I, however, had a relative go through treatment for rectal cancer not long ago. The treatment for such a cancer is horrible, so I wasted no time. I got into the doctor lickity split and, as uncomfortable as it was, I actually asked a stranger to look at my butthole.

And she did it. She’s a doctor, so she kind of had to. Upon close inspection, she said she didn’t see anything. In retrospect, this makes sense because the hemorrhoid wouldn’t have become too enlarged yet. Still, I was already telling myself to come to terms with my ass cancer. The doc, meanwhile, referred me to a gastroenterologist.

I’d seen a gastroenterologist before. When I was sixteen, I experienced such painful stomach aches that I was willing to undergo a colonoscopy. This is where they basically snake your guts with a long camera to see if your intestinal tract contains any polyps or signs of Crohn’s. The prep is a nightmare since you have to completely empty out your digestive system. On the plus side, you lose between three and eight pounds in the process.

As luck would have it, this new specialist also wanted to snake a camera through my guts. BUT this time around, it wouldn’t go all the way through. They called it a “short scope.”

Oh, I forgot to mention that with the colonoscopy, I also had to be sedated. I hate being sedated for many reasons. Aside from the fact that you can’t eat or even drink water for several hours before the procedure, I’m one of those people who comes to explosively, with the flailing of limbs and a feeling of horror, not knowing where I am, trying to climb out of a strange bed while people dressed in pastels hold me down. It’s like waking up in one of the scary episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Since I’d done the colonoscopy, and since I’d had my wisdom teeth out not too long before with nothing but a local anesthetic, I was feeling cocky. I decided to go through this short scope procedure stone cold sober. It couldn’t possibly be worse than when the ortho-surgeon had to wrench my upper-right wisdom tooth away from where it had joined with my cheek bone. (Pro-tip: don’t wait until your late-twenties to get your wisdom teeth out. Get that shit done ASAP.)

I went in for my procedure in a decent mood, knowing that it would be uncomfortable but that it wouldn’t take long. I smiled and pleasantly greeted the personnel. I made small talk with the assistants wheeling me in to the operating room. (“How many of these procedures do you do in a day? … Whoa, that’s a lot of butts!”)

My error became apparent almost immediately. Because they had to snake my gut, I had to lay in a position that allowed easy access. Remember the commercial with the unicorn pooping rainbow ice cream? I had to assume that position, only lying down, with my bare butt exposed. I was not allowed to move, which made me feel even more vulnerable. Before the procedure even began, I said to one of the assistants, “I think I’d rather be in the stirrups at my gyno’s office right now.”

Or hanging out with a unicorn that poops rainbow ice cream.

It’s important to note that the women who assisted Dr. D throughout this process made it possible for me to get through it. One of them was like a yoga instructor, holding a pillow in my back and telling me when to breath, when to relax. I especially needed her for the second part of the process.

The short scope itself wasn’t too bad. Or maybe it was and I’ve just blocked it out. That was just step one, though. The short scope determined that I did not have rectal cancer (it would have had to be near the anus to account for the fact that the bleeding was bright red and not dark as it would have been had the blood come from further up, like the colon or the liver) but a hemorrhoid that had swelled to about double its normal size. I know this because once it was all over, they thoughtfully gave me a photograph of my butthole with the hemorrhoid front and center. I treasure this memento.

Anyway, once the hemorrhoid was sighted, Dr. D prepared to treat it using a brand, spankin’ new process involving rubber bands. This is where they cut off the blood supply to the hemorrhoid using teeny, tiny rubber bands so the thing dries out, dies, and falls off. The treatment is so new, in fact, that Dr. D snapped a couple of the bands while trying to install them. Fortunately, the bands snapping didn’t hurt. Unfortunately, the apparatuses used in the process are very uncomfortable when jammed up your Khyber.*

To be polite to the reader who’s made it this far, I’m not going to go into detail. Instead, I’ll jump to the immediate aftermath. As the kind assistants wheeled me back into my room, I was no longer friendly and joking. I was silent, still lying on my side with my face twisted in a sad grimace.

I can tell you now that part of my problem was anxiety. Having had years of experience with anxiety and panic attacks, I know that they can take a lot more out of you than you realize. In the coming hours, I would be unbelievably tired. I would go to bed at seven that evening and not wake until after noon the next day.

At that moment, though, I couldn’t process my feelings. All I could do was slowly dress myself, and then wait to be discharged. I sat in a vinyl seat and rocked back and forth like a trauma victim – which is essentially what I was.

Medical procedures can be traumatic. If you ever require one that involves going in through the out door, do yourself a favor and get sedated.

Time for a mental palate cleanser: Remember how awesome this album is? Let’s all listen to it right now!

On a slightly lighter note, I spent the next couple of days too afraid to use the toilet. They’d told me to take it easy and not to strain or the bands would snap. I was so afraid I’d have to go through the procedure again that I ate nothing but fiber and held it all in for about 60 hours. Never again.

Take care of your butts, children, and hug your medical professionals. Especially the ones who are willing to look at your A-hole just so you can be well again.

To avoid this ordeal yourself, be sure to get daily exercise. This is doubly important for people who spend many hours of the day sitting. Good posture is important, and so is sitting on a cushion.

On a related note, every cowboy in the Old West had wicked hemorrhoids because they smashed their butts on leather saddles, not unlike the modern-day motorcyclist. Stretch your legs every hundred miles!

Finally, don’t be embarrassed to tell your doc about your painful, bloody asshole. First of all, it’s part of their daily routine. They aren’t making fun of you in the break room. Also, in addition to possible serious issues like cancer, nothing good can come of letting and infection or an inflammation develop unchecked. That’s how you end up with one of those pus pockets that gets bigger and bigger until one night, when you’re out with friends including your longtime secret crush, it pops. Out comes foul-smelling fluid that soaks the seat of your pants. And now you have no friends.

Stay healthy, freaks.

*Khyber is one of my favorite bits of Cockney rhyming slang just because Khyber Pass doesn’t even rhyme with “arse.” They’ve always played it fast and loose with the rules, those East Enders.

One Comment Add yours

  1. I’m sorry you had to go through this but this is wonderful, funny writing! Ranks up there with David Sedaris!