Friday, January 21, 2011

So far, 2011 is a pain in the ass

That's a literal statement.

About two weeks ago, on a Monday, pain developed in my right buttock. By that Friday, sitting became excruciating. I set up a doctor's appointment for the following Monday afternoon. But by Sunday, I had stopped eating and was feverish and nauseous. Not good. So, with Mom's help, I limped into the ER Monday morning.

What a long, slow day of poking and prodding; no fewer than six people spent quality time checking out my backside. And under the awkward florescent lighting, I was mortified. And scared. I kept thinking cancer and welled up pretty easily throughout the day. The nurses kept offering pain meds. But that wasn't it; the pain I could tolerate; the humiliation and fear were overwhelming.

Diagnosis: perirectal abscess about the size of a kiwi

Funny, in all my Google searches that week, abscess is the one word I never saw. Plenty of boils and cysts and other colorful things that come up with searches on "tenderness in buttock," "firmness in one buttock," "pain in buttock" . . .

So, in the ER at 9 a.m., diagnosed by noon, admitted at 4, surgery at 5, postop at 6, discharged at 9:30. Looking back, I'm not sure I should have been discharged. But I think my fierce attitude scared the young nurse on duty. I was a hot mess--barely walking, draining everywhere, and full of pain. She literally looked both ways down the hall and told my mother and me to just go.

I am now two weeks into recovery. The first week was a Vicodin blur. But I have vivid memories of removing the gauze. The surgeon had said, "There will be a lot of it, and it will hurt." What a fucking understatement. I stood in the shower for 30 minutes, intermittently tugging for 10 seconds, then holding onto the bar and breathing for 10 seconds, watching blood run down my legs and the tail of gauze behind me growing. I asked my mother to come into the bathroom to talk to me so I could focus on something other than the pain. The sensation . . . like pulling a dull sword through your ass at about a half-inch per minute. I was lightheaded with pain. The last tug almost brought me to my knees. I held the gauze up. It reached from my feet to my collar bone. That gauze was inside the wound. This open wound in my ass. I exclaimed that we should bronze it, or certainly a photo should go on Facebook. But Mom quickly put it in a bag and whisked it away. My body was shaking uncontrollably, my modesty and pride shot to hell. She prepared a sitz bath for me, and I sat in warm water, pulling a towel around me and shaking. I was humbled.

For days after that, I slept, mostly. Very little movement, very little eating. Loss of appetite is a peculiar sensation for a foodie. At the same time, I had to succumb to the fact that I was "unable" in many ways. Unable to do just about anything for myself. A horror to an uber-independent woman. My mother visited every couple days, calling ahead for a grocery list and taking out the trash on arrival. She kept telling me to rest, to appreciate the trauma my body had been through. But this is new to me . . . this inability to bounce back. And when I called to say I would be out of work a second week, I felt ashamed.

I'm feeling almost complete again. I've stopped taking the Vicodin because I would rather feel pain than cloudiness. I can sit with mild discomfort, and I can drive. I left my apartment for the first time yesterday, and felt both weak and victorious. It felt good to clear snow off my car, to use my body, to breathe fresh air.

The moral of the story is to never underestimate the importance of your own ass. Sitting is a beautiful thing. And no matter how hairy or puckered or weird you think it looks down there, embrace it. Love your little balloon knot, your dirty penny. Mine looks very different now. All hopes of being an anal porn star are dashed for me. But it's still healing. It's still draining. I'm not fully me yet, but I'm getting there. And I'm sorry there are no pictures to accompany this post, but, frankly, there's not one goddamn thing about this that you want to see.