We Don’t Talk About Buttholes

My kids are long past the age of dying to watch the latest Disney movies as soon as they hit the theaters. My kids and I are not past the age, however, of curling up on the couch to watch when those movies hit digital streaming. This is how I came to learn why we don’t talk about Bruno.

I’d heard people sing that line and say it, and I knew where it was from, but I had no idea what it meant. “We don’t talk about Bruno,” means we don’t talk about things that are ugly, painful, embarrassing, or bring up uncomfortable feelings.

It was that song that led to a conversation between an old friend and I about why we don’t talk about buttholes.

Ironically, someone sent me this video during the pandemic. This hilarious little girl wrote a song about buttholes. I frequently send it to my kids to make them laugh – or roll their eyes – and once you hear it, it’ll be stuck in your head all day. It’s the catchiest song I’ve ever heard about buttholes.

I went to the doctor a few weeks back for extreme butthole pain. When I say extreme, I mean it. I’m not being dramatic – something I have been accused of on more than one occasion. No, the drama was real. I felt like I had a knife inside my butthole making tiny slices.

“Hemorrhoids,” I hear you saying to yourself. That’s what I was saying. I had them since my pregnancies and knew what they felt like. This felt different. It was worse. And I needed to know what was happening inside.

My doctor had me drop my drawers and exam me. He said I was due for a colonoscopy anyway, because I recently turned forty-five, which is the magic year insurance companies recommend for colonoscopies. Then he sent me to see a gastroenterologist who examined me. He said we needed to do a colonoscopy as soon as possible. He sent me home with a prescription for a cleanse, and two days later, I had it done.

The cleanse was the worst part of the procedure, and frankly, wasn’t as awful as I expected. In my mind, I was preparing for the scene in Dumb and Dumber when Harry was stuck in the bathroom with exploding diarrhea. It was no where near that. I wasn’t a day in the park, and it was nothing I would ever do for fun, but I’ve experienced worse.

After the colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist referred me to a colorectal surgeon. He said I had hemorrhoids, which I knew, and also some tearing around them.

So last week, I went to see the colorectal surgeon, who examined me, and said in the calmest, steadiest voice I have ever heard talk about buttholes, “I would like to tell you I have options for you, but I don’t. You will never be without pain if we don’t do surgery. I will need to remove the hemorrhoids and repair the tearing. It is one of the most painful procedures out there, I won’t lie. I can give you narcotics for a day or so, at most, but after that, you will have to rely on baths and over-the-counter meds. Narcotics cause constipation, and constipation will tear up the surgery I just did.”

He went on to tell me how recovery can take anywhere from two to four weeks, and I have to be extra careful. Normally, when you have a surgery, you get sutures and bandages, and you clean the incisions several times a day. None of that can be done inside your butthole. And it’s not exactly the cleanest place on the planet, so lots of extra care has to be taken.

He then proceeded to show me pictures of hemorrhoids on Google, and explained how everyone is born with hemorrhoids. Everyone. Did you know that? I didn’t. You may not have ever suffered with inflamed hemorrhoids, but you have them. He said they are designed to cushion and protect us when we sit and when we poop. They become inflamed and cause pain when there is pressure or strain, like in pregnancy, especially during labor, or when you have a job that keeps you on your feet too long, or a job that has you sitting for long hours. They also happen if you are genetically predisposed to having them. Most of the time, as in my case, they can be treated with over-the-counter medications, wipes, ointments, etc. Most people aren’t bothered by them but occasionally. That was how my case was until recently, when the pain came in like fire and never left. My diagnosis isn’t life threatening – it’s just painful. Permanently inflamed hemorrhoids and slight tearing.

If we are all born with buttholes, hemorrhoids, and we all poop, why do we never talk about them? I understand it’s not fun or pleasant conversation, but why is there shame or embarrassment around it? It’s not like I did something wrong to end up with this condition. I didn’t get here by being dirty, neglectful, or skipping doctor appointments. It just happens. It happens…just like the old bumper sticker.

Maybe, if we talked about what happens with our buttholes or our poop, we could lower the rate of people diagnosed with late stage colon cancer. People like my friend Jena Coker, who gave me permission to tell her story here.

A few years ago, Jena noticed blood in her poop. She had no pain, it didn’t hurt to go, but she pooped a lot. Her first gastroenterologist did a colonoscopy and told her she was fine. But the blood kept coming, so she sought out a second opinion.

Eight months after her first colonoscopy, a tumor was found, and she was diagnosed with colon cancer by her gastroenterologist.

More testing, more scopes, more exams, and probes…until her surgeon finally diagnosed her correctly. She had Stage 2 rectal cancer and immediately started twenty-eight days of chemotherapy, radiation, and being bathed in prayer by everyone who loves her.

Fortunately for Jena, the tumor disappeared completely. She has scopes and scans done every six months, and this December, she will be six years cancer free. Fortunately for her, Jena wasn’t afraid to talk about her butthole.

Unfortunately, I know stories of too many people who didn’t have a happy ending. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are fairly common in the United States. 1 in 23 men are diagnosed, and 1 in 25 women find out they have it. It’s a cancer that, if caught early, is incredibly treatable and has one of the highest survival rates of all the cancers. The problem is the low screening rate. People don’t want to drink the cleanse, they don’t want to have diarrhea for two days, and they really don’t want a movie made of their colon. But if you don’t get screened, you don’t know you have it. So why wouldn’t you get screened?

Because we don’t talk about buttholes.

But maybe it’s time we did.