Saturday, August 28, 2010

For technical assistance......

This post is going to go down in the annals of Too Much Information  And, while my blog history has quite a few TMI moments, somehow, when they involve the boobage area, it doesn't seem so intimate.

Everybody loves boob(s).

It's different when you are discussing the bottom end.   I have never felt as sorry for my colorectal cancer blogging counterparts as I do now, because the subjects they need to discuss can be pretty uncomfortable.  It can't be easy being a booty blogger.

I started thinking about why that is.  I mean, after all, "everybody poops."  Why is the subject taboo?  I think our distaste for the topic goes back to caveman times, when the very act left you exposed.  When a saber-toothed tiger could be behind the next tree, ready to pounce, taking the time out to squat in a position you can't immediately get up from seems fraught with danger.

Humans don't like to discuss their vulnerability.  Especially when it smells bad.

Of course, some people can react to the aforementioned tiger threat quicker than others.  I, for example, have never needed to take the sports page with me to the bathroom.

I do like my fiber.

The name of the test I just had to "do" is called the Hemoccult Sensa, which sounds like something Woot would sell at a discount.  However, Woot, one of my favorite online shopping places, sells high tech and super fun gadgets you can't live without.

This sensa test is pretty much the exact opposite of that.

The purpose of the test is to detect blood in your stool.  Since my blood levels are all over the map, and since I have been too busy dealing with breast cancer to get a colonoscopy (can there be a better excuse?)  it's a quick - albeit disgusting - way of finding out if I have any bleeding polyps, colon cancer, or any blood in my guts.

The kit consists of a little cardboard packet with three spaces that open like an envelope.  On each space, you write your name, your address, your date of birth, and the date of sample collection.  When you open the envelope, there are two squares there, where you are to paint your sample. You are supposed to take three samples, three days in a row.

Since bad things come in threes, you also are not allowed to eat red meat for three days prior to taking these samples.

In the kit, as a sort of bonus prize, are three wooden sticks, three sheets of wrapping-paperesque tissue paper, and instructions on how to do the deed, aka take the sample.

In case you haven't guessed by now, you catch your poop, dig some up with a stick, and spread it on little test strips on the sample kit.  Not only do you do it once, but you have to take a sample from a second spot.  Your stool will be thoroughly examined by you, probably for the first time since you were 9 months old.

At least, I sincerely hope it's the first time since you were 9 months old.

My nurse, when handing me the kit, suggested that the best method for sample collection was to put saran wrap over the toilet bowl and then to go about your business naturally.   Your prize will be waiting patiently on the saran wrap for you to use your probing stick, and then you simply dump and flush. 

So, three days after eating only chicken and vegetables, I got up in the morning, grabbed my box of saran wrap and hit the bathroom.

Day 1:  FAIL.  Saran wrap is slippery, and it covers a toilet bowl as well as it covers a plastic food container.  Lesson learned.

Day 2.  I tried the same thing with the tissue paper included with the test.  Success! 

Day 3.  Tissue paper again.  FAIL!  Apparently, a high fiber diet is a bit powerful for the thin paper I was given. I was left looking down at a hole in the tissue paper with blue water beneath. 

Day 4.  Augment tissue paper with paper towls.  Success.

Finally, when I was all done and ready to mail the package (my deepest apologies to the best mailman ever, Chuck) I noticed a slip of paper inside the mailing packet.

For technical assistance, call 1-800 Beckman Coulter or email


I could  have gotten technical assistance?

Which part would they have assisted with?

"Thank you for calling technical support.  All of our technicians are currently helping other people.  In order for us to better assist you, please listen to the following choices:   Press 1 if you accidentally ate a Porterhouse last night and don't know what do to.  Press 2 if you lost your little sticks and want to know if you can substitute a toothbrush.  Press 3 if you find the whole process disgusting and need us to talk you through it.  Press 4 if you are a mailman upset about carrying the completed test kit in your bag."

Curious about what kind of technical assistance they provide,  I went to their website to look for a FAQ.  I found a section intended for doctors. Not only do they provide technical assistance, but they also have patient sample collection videos that are supposed to help "drive compliance."  In the video for a test kit similar to the one I had, a woman  walks us through the process, from start to finish, ending with her walking her dog up the steps to her house, secure in the knowledge that she avoided having her yearly colonoscopy.

In the video, they actually suggest using a "clean" milk carton as a collection tub. Alternatively, you can use a pie tin.

Speaking of TMI, this video is pretty, um, descriptive. I wonder what they used for the brown parts?

It's not unusual for people who have had chemo to have crazy blood levels so I have no worries anything will be found when the results come back. But, I think that if I ever need anything like this again, I'll just do a colonoscopy.

At least they put you to sleep.



  1. In the future, may I suggest glad press and seal?
    It sticks to everything.

  2. I always wonder about the actors in these sort of videos. Where did they find them? How desperate for work were they?

    Seriously, though, when I found out I had bc (one month ago yesterday), one doc I visited was the general surgeon. He was to supply me with my powerport. While there, he asked if I would also like to schedule a colonoscopy, seeing how I've just turned 50, and will certainly be meeting my deductible. This was just a little much. I'm saving that fun for next summer.

  3. LOL, the colonoscopy has been mentioned, but I'm in no rush! After reading your post I think I will opt to be put out rather than have to collect!

  4. I think this may be my favorite post of yours to date.

  5. They gave me the kit to keep me occupied whilst waiting for the BC diagnosis. Since I'm vegetarian, no prob missing the steak. I've had 2 kids and managed a horse farm (a.k.a. mucking out stalls) so also no problem doing the TP "catch and release". Hubby could not believe that the instructions actually said to stick it in the mail. My kit was missing the sticks, so I just used coffee stir sticks. Hope the caffeine residue doesn't throw the results off!

  6. Three out of the four folks in my family who have had a colonoscopy had their intestinal system seriously and possibly permanently screwed up by the process. And a friend of my sister's had his colon perforated during the procedure, and nearly bled to death. I think I'll endure a bit of stank... having stage iv BC is bad enough, I don't need that end to be tortured, too.


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