Thursday, December 2, 2010


Dear readers, my apologies for having abandoned you for so long. I was writing a book! And I had an intestinal parasite!

Whilst swimming in a crystal clear and blue lake sometime this summer, I must have breast-stroked gleefully, with mouth agape, right through a patch of water recently vacated by an incontinent beaver.

Or, an alternate vision: perhaps dirty-fingered Leonard, the fruit and veggie stocker at the local Stop 'N' Shop, touching the produce with doody-flavored hands? Touching, touching, and dreaming of his recent mountain hike during which he gurgled down fresh and clear mountain stream water sans iodine?

One of these visions must be true. How do we know, dear reader? Oh, because after many many days of miserable gut-wrenching agony, nausea, heartburn, and what are commonly known as "the skwertz," I finally decided to seek the advice of a doctor.

At first I had diagnosed myself, because I am a certified WEB MD. Not only did I have gluten intolerance, fructose malabsorption, lactose intolerance, and yeast intolerance, I also had multiple sclerosis. Now, I know that MS has nothing to go with GI troubles, but by God, that didn't stop me from finding a tenuous yet scientifically valid connection.

The pains and misery grew worse. Such were they that, upon receiving a catalog that features plaques and mugs with your grandkids' photos emblazoned on 'em, I almost ordered a miniature gravestone that one can place in the veggie beds. The thing was inscribed with a poem that read something like:

God saw that you were tired, a cure could not be found.
So He closed your weary eyelids, and we put you in the ground.

As I read those words I shivered with regret, for my children would trip over the little gravestone as they crossed through the garden, and would probably miss me as they did so.

Every time I passed a neighbor on the street I groaned and clutched at my midsection and went on about the ruination of my health. I don't know why I did this, except that any other topic of discussion was of little interest to me because I was about to throw up.

To my great misfortune and shame, the doctor asked me for a "stool sample." Three times. Delivering a stool sample is neither enjoyable nor fun. The nurse suggests that you use "something clean" to poo upon. One time, I decided to use aluminum foil. I suppose Saran Wrap would be been a poorer choice, but other than that I could hardly have chosen a more wretched and crinkly medium for my canvas. Things stick to tin foil. It's not like rolling something off a Silpat (TM).

Another time, I thought I would hit my own "feeling lucky" button and go right into the cup! It was daring. I dared, and I won.

Upon depositing the poo in whatever the chosen receptacle, one has to scoop out several bits with a mini shovel and scoop them into smaller vessels, which all had to be shimmied about a bit to mix the foul ingredients. The containers have "do not eat" yucky faces on them just in case you are tempted. Then, one has to keep "some" but not "all" of the poop in a refrigerated condition. So that basically means you are hiding bits of poop around the house and in the back of the fridge, in dark baggies and containers, after trying without success to remove it from the tin foil, or your shoes.

The frightful part is that on the sides of each container there are blank spaces for the scientists to write. They have to evaluate the consistency of each specimen, check for bad stuff in each, write a little poem about each chunk of poo-poo, and say anonymous stuff about it that they wouldn't dream of saying to the face of the person who produced it. I think one is judged and rated on the manner of delivery and if the container is Tiffany, Wedgewood, or otherwise. I got low marks for the black plastic and that hurt me, because we are poor.

This must the worst job in forever, but I'm sure there is a lot of laughter and ribald talk in the lab, and they pass the hours tossing specimens back and forth like those Seattle fish market guys did and made famous. "Go long!" they shout, and "Hey, not in my sandwich!" and fun, silly things like that.

When I dropped off one specimen, however, the people in the lab looked very bitter. It was hard to tell, because they all wore masks, but I don't think they were smiling terribly fiercely, or at all. I tried some rude "poo poo" talk and tested out some stage patter that my five-year-old is perfecting, but they stared at me with cold, lifeless eyes. I rather wished that I used a Lilly Pulitzer patterned coverlet for my sample, because their judgmental attitudes were giving me the pip.

The end of all this is that I was found to have GIARDIA, aka Beaver Fever. The people in the lab found it! Maybe that brought them some joy, to find something of conversational interest.

Then I had to take a bunch of antibiotics, including one called FLAGYL. Flagyl came with a horrific list of side effect warnings that included things like: "You will tear your eyeballs out and eat your own brains," and "You will vomit so prodigiously that your life will end prematurely." I was so scared to take Flagyl, especially because I could not have one wee drop of alcohol during the time I was on it. I wasn't even to use shaving lotion! I don't use shaving lotion, but I was scared I might rub up against some, or eat a bourbon-filled bon-bon that I found lying on the street. If you drink any booze while on Flagyl, you will get hot flashes, obscene cramps, and the vomiting willy-wags.

Flagyl worked. It finally did the trick, and the whole horrible thing ended. Sometimes I still have lactose intolerance, but that's it. I have one remaining fear. That is that the doctor will want "proof" that the parasite was vanquished. He will want another sample, and I will need to find a receptacle that hasn't been tried before so I can be innovative, new, and different! It is hard to always reinvent oneself. I may choose something bold, and very tiny, so that I get Olympic style points for verve and finesse. My sample shall be bold. My sample shall be trendy, and most delightfully free of Giardia.

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