I Got Worms!

It’s been a week of procrastinating… wasting time, and generally being ineffective. Oh, who am I kidding ? It’s been a whole month of that. It’s been a whole YEAR of that.

Take, for instance, the directive from my doctor to poop in a to-go container and then mail it to a lab. Do you think I ran right home and did it? Of course not! I let that kit sit on the toilet tank for four whole days before I could get up the nerve to open it.

Wait. I didn’t tell you about the poop in the to-go container, did I?

Listen. This is the Internet, right? The place where everyone can feel safe and secure talking about their most private moments, right? The place where no one is subjected to public ridicule because of their parasitic orientation, right? That’s what the Internet was designed for, no? So, I’m just gonna drop the facade that I have any dignity left at all, and I’m going to tell you something very unpleasant about myself:

I have parasites.

PARASITES! Microbial beings that have actually entered my body and have latched on to the lining of my intestines and are causing my body great harm! Eating my cheese doodles and drinking my lattes and using my guts for their living room!

Now, I know I’ve posted quite a bit about my bizarre health maladies these past few years, so I can understand if you’re sick of this litany of complaints. (That makes two of us, pardner. And two points for me for the double entendre!) It’s not like I have something dramatic and obvious wrong with me like, say, leprosy. THAT would be a good excuse to not to go to work in the morning. No, I have something far more banal. I’ve got worms.

Roundworms, to be exact. And also protozoa.

Seriously. All this digestive stuff, ALL OF IT, probably has been caused by these mothereffin‘ worms. All these sensitivities to eggs and wheat and dairy…. all this stuff that has been on the no-eat list for so long… it’s probably because of the worms.

My doctor, who is awesome, took me quite seriously when I went to her a few weeks ago and said that I felt like I was five months pregnant after every meal. My stomach would bloat and it would be no trouble at all getting someone to give up their seat on a bus for me. It was getting to be a little ridiculous. So I went to her and asked if she would write me a prescription for an abdominal x-ray because I was beginning to think the whole legend of being able to grow a watermelon inside you because you’d swallowed a seed was true.

Anywho, my doctor, who is awesome, obliged me. She wrote me that prescription (um…. $1,400 for that bad boy, by the way, so I skipped it and decided living with a melon-gut was better than not being able to afford rent). She also suggested, just for shits and giggles (oh, will it ever stop?) that I take a “stool” test.

Um, stool test, I asked? I understood pee test. That was easy. That’s self administered and simple: I shamefacedly handed a cup of warm urine to a nurse without making eye contact and it would be like it never happened. But, um, stool test? That’s a far cry from a mostly inconspicuous cup of pee. I mean, a pee cup is small. It fits in the palm of your hand. Hell, the pee cup is nearly the color of my hand. For all anyone knows, I am just high-fiving the nurse after using the bathroom. But poop? That’s different. There’s no getting around handing a live human being your own feces. Plus, who can poop on command? What if I got into the bathroom at the doctor’s office and discovered that I just couldn’t go? And then what if I was in that doctor’s bathroom for an inordinate amount of time and then someone came and knocked on the door to make sure I was still alive, but what if I wasn’t alive because the stress of having to poop under duress plus the embarrassment of having everyone in the doctor’s office know what I was doing had caused, at that very moment, a blood vessel in my head to RUPTURE, and I fell off the toilet and hit my mouth on the toilet paper dispenser so hard I knocked my front teeth right out of my mouth just as the nurse was breaking down the door and she could never use that bathroom again she was so traumatized and everyone at my funeral would know I was dead and toothless from the effort of trying to poop into a tiny sample jar? WHAT THEN?

While I was imagining all this, my doctor was busy filling out paperwork and digging a small cardboard box out of her desk drawer. Here ya go, she said, cheerily, and handed me the box. I took it from her and saw that it had an address stamped on it. An address. To a lab in another city. In another state. I would be mailing my poop. I could do this in the privacy of my own home. There would be no ruptured blood vessels, no untimely death, no traumatized medical personnel. Hooray!

Hooray? You still have to poop into something, dumbass, I reminded myself. There’s still the risk of (gag) contima(gag)tion. Like, getting it on (dry heave) your ha(dry heave)nds and stuff.

I don’t just have one parasite. I have TWO. TWO little fuckers living in my body making me all bloaty and cranky.

Here’s the lowdown:

There’s some controversy about whether these two bugs cause any symptoms at all. Some argue that they are asymptomatic, that lots of people walk around this earth with parasites ALL THE TIME. But some people have things happen when these things get into their systems. Some people, who are, say, chronically stressed out, and who dream at night of apocalyptic world-ending subject matter, and whose adrenal glands have taken a beating the past few years, well, those people don’t do so well with small beings living in their guts.

My doctor, who is awesome, drew me a little diagram of what has happened to my once strong and mighty intestinal lining. The cells that line my intestines used to live very close together. But stress (and the critters) have caused them to spread apart and create gaps. And those gaps have allowed food to get directly into my bloodstream. My bloodstream, unhappy at receiving huge chunks of partially digested food, has created antibodies against that food. So, when I eat that food again and again, my blood attacks it like a foreign invader. And it never gets broken down into the tiny nutritional pieces my body needs.

And that, Internet, is why, even without a positive allergic reaction to wheat, even without a positive reading for Celiac disease, I cannot digest gluten without feeling like I’ve just swallowed a mind-altering, lethargy-inducing tablet the size and shape of a watermelon.

Can I just get an AMEN for finally understanding what the holy hell is going on with my digestion?

Here’s the thing about finding out you have parasites: everything in your life becomes suspect. I can’t help wonder HOW ON EARTH I could have gotten these things and not noticed. Where are the skin rashes? Where are the entry site wounds?

Of course, there was that time I fell in that hole in the asphalt at the park and gouged my leg from my kneecap to my ankle…

Or all those weird lumps on my leg I thought were spider bites. And there’s also all the bodies of water I’ve been swimming in in the past few years….

Anywho, everything I touch now, I regard with suspicion. Grapes from Chile in my refrigerator? I know I washed you, but I dunno… was it you? What about that one time I ran barefoot around a muddy park late at night that I found out was a HORSE TRACK the next morning? I’m recalling one by one all the brushes with nature I’ve had recently where parasites might have been involved. And you know how that can go. I mean, you know I dream about the Apocalypse at least once a month, right? SO, it’s really no stretch for me to imagine that every single thing in my house, IN MY LIFE, is crawling with infectious microorganisms. I mean, did it come in on the bottom of my shoes? From a public bathroom? From the doors on the bus? From food? If so, which food? Mexican? Thai? Chinese? Greek? That one time I ate at Olive Garden just to see if I really did feel like family? My favorite sushi restaurant? OH GOD. Not the sushi restaurant. Don’t make me think about the chef not washing his hands. Noooooo oo oo oo o o.

All I can freakin‘ think about are those parasites. What they look like. What they’re doing in my body. What they’ve been eating. How they’re going to die horrible traumatic deaths in the next 24 hours because I just took a drug that is so potent the side affects include rash, dizziness, headache, vomiting, and fever. Yeah! Take that, worms!

Mostly, though, I’ve been thinking: HOW THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN?

Let’s review the evidence, shall we? Offender Number One: Blastocystis Hominis.

From Wikipedia: Blastocystis is a genus of single-celled protozoan….The extent to which human-human, human-animal, and animal-human transmission occurs is still unknown. Fecal-oral (gag) tans(gag) mission is the most accepted (dry heave) pathway.

I. Can’t. Even. Think. About. It.

Moving on. Offender Number Two: Strongyloides stercoralis. Also from Wikipedia: “Strongyloidiasis appears to have a high prevalence in some areas of Brazil and Central America”.

Let’s review the places I’ve traveled in the past five years:

Brazil
Panama
Costa Rica

A few years before that? Mexico.

A few years before that? Peru, Bolivia, Chile.

I’d say that I put the port back into opportunistic, no? Get it? Nudge nudge, wink wink?

I’m reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” right now (which you should buy because a portion of the book sales goes towards a scholarship fund which you will understand the importance of once you read the book. Seriously. Read this book. Donate to the scholarship fund). The book is about the woman whose cancer cells (taken from her body without her consent) have helped scientists the world over develop treatments for many common human diseases. I’ve always been fascinated by how the body works and how it adapts in all its myriad ways to disease. My body, according to my awesome doctor, has been operating in “Hang In There, Tiger” mode for some time now… just barely making enough hormones and Vitamin D to keep me functioning, but not thriving. Amazing, really, that I am not a trembling mass of goo and bones at this point.

I’m almost… nervous? excited? about killing these things. I feel like a little kid waiting up all night for Santa. Will I see the little buggers come out? I have this idea that I’m going to get up from the toilet tomorrow morning and see something that will tell me that they’re out and then I’ll flip them the double bird and be like “See ya LATER Strongoloides! Guess you weren’t that STRONGoloides after all, were ya? Couldn’t stand up to the olIvermectin, huh? Serves you right, you stupid worm! The whole Internet knows you were in there and we’re just waiting for you to come out so we can kick your ASS! You thought you could mess with this tough old broad, did ya? Well, you were wrong! I mean, you were right for a while there. Like maybe even for years. Like maybe even a decade…there’s really no way of telling…. But NOW who’s got the upper hand, huh, Strongoloides? Not so fancy now, are ya? You get on outta here! And don’t come back, y’hear?”

And with that I would flush the toilet with a single bash from my fist, ala Fonzerelli, and then swagger on out of the bathroom with my thumbs hooked in my belt loops.

I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way. But I’m going to hold on to the fantasy that roundworms are capable of feeling shame and remorse and that, if the drugs don’t do them in, they’ll die of public embarrassment.