Baboon's ass.jpeg

This is not a blog post about a baboon’s ass.

For the longest time, I suffered from hemorrhoids. It’s familial; several in our family have it.

When you have hems you are used to seeing blood during bowel movements. When she was 76 and my mom saw blood in the toilet bowl, she thought she was having one of her hemorrhoid flare ups and just ignored it. Like me she had hems for the longest time. She didn’t know that the blood was from a different source, colon cancer, which would take her life three years later.

What happened to my mom has stirred me to action. I wasn’t going to wait that long. But before I share how I resolved my problem, I want to tell you my story and the lessons I learned along the way.

This is a topic that’s considered taboo. In the office you hear a lot of people say, “I have a migraine attack” or “My vertigo is killing me” but seldom, if ever, do you hear someone say “I can’t sit through that meeting because my hemorrhoid is acting up.” It’s not glamorous to talk about your butt and its problems.

For thirty years I had hemorrhoids. Six months ago, my doctor here in Canada diagnosed another anorectal disease: anal fissures. When I went to her for help because I couldn’t stand the pain in my butt, she asked me to describe it. I said it felt that something down there got torn. She said hems don’t tear or give the sensation of tearing. She said I could have anal fissures which was confirmed by the anorectal surgeon she referred me to.

All this time I have been incorrectly attributing my anal fissures to hemorrhoid flare ups. I did have legitimate flare ups. One time I remember my hem got thrombosed and my anal sphincter collapsed so the hem wouldn’t stay inside my anus. The doctor put a lot of lube and pushed the hem inside my anus. He then put tape to close my anus and keep the hem inside. An exposed thrombosed hem is extremely painful.

I had two anorectal diseases with different treatment options.

Let’s talk about fissures. This is the most painful experience one can ever have. In reading the online forums, a mom described fissures as more painful than normal child birth. If only I could verify that! There is an informative article published by the New York Times about this topic.

Other mind-boggling descriptions of fissures: it’s like giving birth to a pineapple or passing razor blades! You would know you have fissures when you dread having a bowel movement. Hard stools that pass through the fissures cause excruciating pain.

The best solution to fissures is having soft stools. To achieve this I took a stool softener in the morning and in the evening. I also took a magnesium citrate food supplement. These are available over the counter. In addition, and one which I consider the magic solution, I drank a glass of prune juice before going to bed. Sometimes, depending on how much fiber I had in my diet, I would end up with loose bowel movement in the morning. This is fine. Loose bowels cannot aggravate fissures.

Until my doctor diagnosed my anal fissures, I wasn’t addressing them properly, thinking I was just having a hemorrhoid flare up. I had the fissures on and off for a couple of months.

My doctor prescribed 2% diltiazem ointment for my fissures which was very effective. I also had regular bowel movements once a day in the mornings. For as long as I had soft stools, I managed my fissures well until they healed. Another thing I did that was really helpful was to use lube before bowel movements. I would apply lube outside and inside my anus to coat the lining and protect it when I passed stool. Others recommend Vaseline ointment but lube worked wonders for me. Even now that I am free of fissures and hemorrhoid, I still use lube to aid in my bowel movement.

When my fissures were fully healed, I went back to the anorectal surgeon and asked him to remove my hemorrhoid. I’ve wanted this for a long time but was always thwarted by the much-ballyhooed post-operative pain. I have a low pain threshold.

My surgeon said that hemorrhoidectomy, the surgical removal of hemorrhoids, is outdated and he hasn’t performed one in 15 years. He said that there are now several less complicated and less painful procedures.

During my appointment, he asked me to describe what was bothering me. After a 15-minute conversation he asked me to lie face down on a small table in his office. I had to kneel on a step attached to the table and lie face down. He then adjusted the table to bring my butt up.

Using a sigmoidoscope he confirmed that my fissures were all healed and asked me to stop using the ointment. He said I had one small hemorrhoid. He froze it first and put a rubber band on the “neck” of the hem. The procedure, rubber band ligation, was completed in ten minutes. The frozen, choked hem would dry up and fall off in a couple of days and would pass with my stool. It was a painless procedure with no post-op discomfort.

In two weeks I will turn 51 years old. This is the greatest gift I could ever give myself. After 30 years of suffering, I have finally rid myself of my hemorrhoid. Happy birthday to me!

There are many procedures available now to treat hemorrhoids. If you are suffering, please go see your doctor and ask about options.

There is a reason we use the phrase “pain in the ass” in the English language. You don’t want it to apply to you.