The contents of this post may be a little much for some of you. Good writing is full of details and I try my best to write descriptively. While I was tempted to add even more graphic detail to this piece, I held back for reasons you will understand if you read on.
Here I’m following writer Natalie Goldberg’s advice:
“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”
A couple weeks ago I was finally hitting my stride. I was writing daily, exercising regularly, enjoying time with my family and sleeping pretty well. I still had a doomy and gloomy “other shoe is about to drop” feeling behind it all, but it was not that bad.
Then I let the other shoe drop. I cannot blame anyone else for what happened. (Damn!)
I began noticing that when I responded to the call of nature, an unfamiliar, icky smell emanated forth into the toilet basin. I had no other symptoms – no pain, no infection, no signs of anything wrong. It was a 100% “olfactory symptom”. This started happening when our decomposing rat’s smell was strongly wafting throughout our house, which grossed me out to no end.
Between the “eau de decomposed rat” and my own stench (which was almost as bad), I was on the verge of gagging all the time. One fine day Craig finally located the rat’s remains and cleaned them up. One fetid smell down, one to go. Each day my smell grew worse. I was not only more and more worried, but I was embarrassed. My family could smell the odor too; it was lingering on my clothes.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well, why didn’t you go to your doctor right away?”
Good question. I was utterly terrified to go to a doctor. I didn’t even have a current general practitioner at the ready. I only had my psychiatrist. I emailed him about my problem and he, along with my husband, advised me to get a urinalysis test at Urgent Care. I knew that they were both right.
I resisted seeing a general practitioner for a couple of deep-seated reasons. First, I was burned out on all doctors. I had seen so many of them for bipolar, and I had such a bad association with the medical establishment that I wanted to stay far away from them. Second, I was frightened that once I met with a doctor, there would be lots of drawn-out tests and then catastrophic news.
I searched the internet to see what others with my problem wrote about it, but I couldn’t find anything conclusive. My thoughts turned to what would be the worst outcome: cancer, specifically ovarian cancer. A sweet, young friend of mine had died from ovarian cancer leaving a beautiful little girl behind. Maybe I had ovarian cancer too, even though bad smelling pee did not seem to be a symptom.
I shut down emotionally, unable to think rationally about the situation. It had been ages since I went to bed during the day, but that’s what I wound up doing on that Saturday. I became hysterical and I started to shake and cry for hours.
It was a nightmare.
My husband offered to take me to Urgent Care. In my stubborn panic I refused his kindness. Because of my decision, I prolonged my agony of not knowing what the hell was wrong with me. The next morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m., and ruminated for hours. I finally decided to haul myself into Urgent Care. I arrived at the office forty minutes early to ensure that I’d be first in line. That worked out well because a long line of people showed up soon after I got there. The doctor on call that day, Dr. K., was awesome. I had seen her in the distant past, and I remembered I had a good experience with her. The medical assistant tested my urine sample and got immediate results: they were completely normal.
Dr. K. seemed a little baffled at first, but then she said, “Let’s take a look.” I felt really sorry for her. I was humiliated at how much I reeked, and apologized to her about it, but she told me not to give it a second thought.
While examining me, Dr. K. exclaimed “Ah ha!”
I had left a tampon in. It had moldered there for way too long. Sorry to be so explicit, but we all come from the place where tampons are used.
The relief I felt at Dr. K’s news was extraordinary. After I put my clothes back on and she threw away her putrid medical gloves, I gave her a big hug.
If I had done a more thorough internet search I could have found the answer to my problem, as the “lost tampon” subject exists on many websites. But by the time I began to do my internet research I had become unglued, and my search skills were sorely lacking.
As I left Urgent Care, I realized that I really had to slow down and ground myself much more than I had been doing. The lost tampon was a metaphor for my needing to pay better attention to myself and to my life in general. I lost not just a tampon, but over three days of my peace of mind that I will never get back. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but I’ve lost too much time in this life already to illness.
Life is scary sometimes…we all know that to be true, unfortunately. However, if I can be proactive with my health and prevent needless stuff like a lost tampon from happening, then I’ll be happier. Speaking of scary, a lost tampon could have had a much worse outcome, i.e. infection, fever, chills, and the worst case scenario: Toxic Shock Syndrome which can result in death. I am so grateful it didn’t go that way. I lucked out this time. I also will be using pads instead of tampons for a while until I feel a little more present.