In one of our 10 Things about Cancer in your 20s (and 30s) posts, we mentioned how you will get comfortable talking about your poop if you ever face cancer as a young adult. Whether you’re ready or not, pooping is an important factor in how you’re dealing with cancer treatment and its side effects.
I grew up in a household where no topic was ever off limits and weird conversations were common place. We frequently had discussions on how members of the house with a uterus seemed to be better at finding lost items. I remember the first time I told my husband that he should just stop looking for his phone because my uterus could help. Needless to say he gave me a very weird look!
When I was going through cancer treatments though, poop still felt like a taboo topic despite the fact that everyone at the hospital seemed to be interested in whether I was pooping, how often, and what it looked like. One time in particular, I was on the phone with a nurse because I was having issues and couldn’t figure out what to do. This calm, patient woman kept asking me to describe to her what my problem was. Without going into too much detail, I needed to go, couldn’t, and it hurt.
But that’s the issue right?! We never go into detail in normal life about poop so how can we be expected to just flip the switch and know how to talk freely about it just because we now have cancer?!
My husband and I developed a few easy tricks to at least get the conversation started…
- having trouble going, but can’t? not enough pooping? (This is constipation) ….
code word: the Stops!
- too much pooping? (This is diarrhea) …
code word: the Gos!
It probably sounds silly, but this really helped during my chemo treatments. I could make a funny face, say either ‘the Stops’ or ‘the Gos’ and my husband immediately knew what to go and grab for me to help fix the problem.
In both cases, the solution is to talk to your doctor or nurse! Someone on your oncology team can help you. Eventually you will develop a system that works for you to manage your particular side effects. Having trouble talking about it yourself? Develop a system of codes, like we did above, that describe some of the base problems and have your caregiver start the conversation for you.
And, in the words of Cecilia:
So tell your doctors, nurses, caregivers, friends, family, & realistically, whoever else you want about when you poop & when you’re struggling to poop. Tell them if it hurts, if it’s too soft, if it’s oddly colored, if it’s too often, just tell them about your poop.
Have you used code words to talk about uncomfortable issues that cancer causes? Let us know!