Wednesday, March 30, 2011

They Tell You to Look for Blood.

This post is written as part of Studio30Plus weekly writing challenge.  The prompt is 'Red'.  Although I've attempted to keep it less than graphic, you may want to skip if you're squeamish.


They tell you to look for blood.

When I was eleven, my grandfather died of colon cancer.  Well, he died of liver cancer, but it originated in his colon.  All four of his children were told that they would need periodic screenings, since colon cancer can be hereditary, like many cancers.  As for the grandchildren, we were merely advised to keep an eye out for blood in the stool.

Blood is red, right?

What I overlooked, in the months that I was hemorrhaging internally on a near daily basis from May to September of 1998, is that new blood is red.  Old blood is black. Sometimes a purplish color.  But not easily recognizable as the bright, vibrant red of new blood.  Red would have sent me running to the doctors, health card in hand, going 'What is wrong with me?'

Black?  Black I ignored.  I ignored it while inside my intestinal tract was slowly decaying, day by day.  I ignored the bathroom trips, and the embarassment of my own functions.  I ignored the pain in my leg, which was the clot that was forming, quite possibly out of my own body's effort to stop the life literally draining out of me.

I ignored it until the morning I passed out in the bathroom, banging my head on the door jam.  The morning I couldn't lift my head high enough to even sit up and dress myself.  My mother and a family friend tugged a sweater over me and carried me to the car.  I wept with pain and disorientation, sure I was dying.

Turns out, I was.

The doctors explained it thusly:

Normal Hemoglobin levels:  110-120
Safe Hemoglobin levels: 90ish
Level at which heart failure sets in?: 45

My level?  55.

I was a month in hospital, a week in Intensive Care, where there the doctors had the task of thinning the blood-clot in my leg, while controlling the bleeding in my intestine.

Four pints of dark, thick blood was pumped back into my body.  Eventually, color returned to my face that had become pasty white during the weeks bedridden.  I missed an autumn, watched from my bed as the leaves turn brilliant orange, crimson and warm brown outside my window.

Today, 12 years later, my health issues have stabilized for the time being and have been so for the past two years (she says, superstitiously rapping her knuckles on the desk).  But, I still look for blood.


  1. Very scary. I am glad you are ok now.

  2. It was.. if it taught me anything it's to go to the doctor if something is 'off'.

  3. Wow. I know this might be awful to say, but what you just wrote was SO well done.

    I'm glad you're okay. My cousin died of colon cancer last year, and I, too, watch for blood.


  4. Nice post.

    I have a buddy who had stage 4 colon cancer several years ago and is walking around like nothing happened.

  5. Nice post.

    I have a buddy who had stage 4 colon cancer several years ago and is walking around like nothing happened.

  6. Thank you Pearl, that's a huge compliment coming from you. I love your writing.

    I should clarify that what I had wasn't cancer, it was a severe bout of ulcerative colitic, in case there's any confusion.

  7. Thank you for writing this. It will stick in my mind. You just gained a fan. I am off to read the rest of your posts!

  8. Thank you, I hope you enjoy them :-)


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