Major Plumbing Problems

randi rentzRegular LBBC guest blogger Randi Rentz is back! Today she’s tackling a topic we as a society consider rather taboo but while going through her treatment she found it became quite necessary to address the issue with her oncologist…

What ever happened to the old saying “in by 9, out by 5”? For me, after my cancer surgery and treatment it was “in at 9 out IN out IN out IN by 5” if I was lucky. There is nothing – absolutely nothing like being constipated after surgical procedures and treatment. Not only did I experience being “stopped-up” … as in non-functioning, total shut down, zippo, but one of the unpleasant side effects of my Taxotere treatment was colitis, an inflammatory process in the bowels resulting in diarrhea-diarrhea-diarrhea. Oy vey is mere. My plumbing problems were ever wretched.

This is going to sound nuts, but I was consumed with pain from constipation and poop (the runny kind) during my time in the “Pink Bubble.” Gross, I know. No doubt about it. If you can’t take it, I understand. Tear out a picture of a beach scene from a magazine and stare at it to clear your mind before you proceed. Feel better? Yeah, me too!

One time, I was running (actually crawling) to a doctor’s appointment to downtown Philadelphia and experienced quite a “drainage” issue. I literally was on an obstacle course looking for washrooms, powder rooms, toilets, restrooms, sale de bains, bathrooms and laboratories prior to my appointment. Now, I am proud to say, I can find almost any bathroom downtown in a snap after my drainage system hurdle. Sorry, I digress.

Anyhoo, I was amazed at how UNselective I became when I really had to go. I didn’t care where I did my business; all I needed was a good flush! Strangers in the city were so nice to me. I guess they could see the panic on my face and sweat on my brow as they condensed their directions of how to get to the closest restroom. Seriously. Also, I admit that I did play the cancer card, too. I suspected they could tell I was a cancer patient with the scarf on my head. Besides, who has time to listen to lengthy directions when “Mother Nature” is calling?  She cast a spell of hurricanes in my stomach at a level 5 status.

Throughout all this, I learned that it was very important to stay hydrated to combat the diarrhea. I thought I was doing a good job of keeping fluids in my system, but my bowels had other plans. My oncologist had me drinking Gatorade, in an attempt to replenish some of the lost electrolytes. Easy, right? Not for me. I had a difficult time acquiring a taste for any of the flavors because everything tasted like metal. Yuck! I went with the fruit punch flavor because my taste buds tolerated it. It did give me a semblance of function, along with my diet of bananas, toast, rice and applesauce. HOWEVER, after consulting with my oncologist, and after many plumbing episodes, I was made to sit hooked up to an IV machine receiving 1000 ml of 0.9% Sodium Chloride. That was his way to counterbalance the dehydration that accrued from many days of bathroom pursuits.

On the flip side, many of my chemo drugs blocked me up, BIG time. Constipation and gas were huge problems, almost daily. All I wanted to do was have a pain free day and poop. That was seriously my goal for one day. I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. My favorite nurse advised me not to wait to see if I was backed up, so I took stool softeners and laxatives at a low dose proactively after chemo with my doctor’s approval, of course. It helped me from bloating and I did feel less nauseous. My Aunt Sylvia told me that prunes and prune juice were a natural way to keep it flowing. I stocked up on them, but I honestly don’t know if they helped. (I think I still have the boxes of prunes in my pantry, though). I also made friends with my hot water bottle. I preferred it to a heating pad because it felt cuddlier on my tummy and there was no pesky wire to get tangled in. If you are among the “unfortunates” who gets gas from your chemo cocktail, an anti-flatulent did wonders for me. Just sayin’.

Needless to say, once again, my oncologist took over. We had a great partnership during my plumbing days. He took control and ever so gently reassured me that everything would, eventually, be ok. He was able to introduce new drugs to my regimen including a prescription for Relistor and Mirilax.

So, what happened next? I discussed alternatives to the way my chemo was delivered. My oncologist rearranged the drugs in such a way that two drugs were given at a time rather than three. Bravo. It helped tremendously.

So, although this is a tough topic to tackle, I felt it had to be discussed.

I wish all of you a shining filled moment, inside the bathroom and out.

Randi Rentz, graduated with honors from The Johns Hopkins University with a Masters degree in Special Education. She was an editorial assistant for a publishing company in suburban Washington, DC before becoming a special education teacher in a school district outside Philadelphia, PA. Randi currently is an Asperger’s Support Teacher for grades kindergarten through fifth. Presently, Randi has her own consulting company for children on the Autistic Spectrum where you can see her work at She is a proud member, supporter, and blogger for many breast cancer organizations and never leaves the house without diamonds. Visit Randi at her web site at Be sure to check out the teaser for her upcoming book “Why Buy a Wig…When You Can Buy Diamonds!”

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6 thoughts on “Major Plumbing Problems

  1. Sometimes the hardest things to deal with when you have cancer are the simple, mundane daily occupancies that we take for granted! We all need to speak up and not be embarrassed. Glad you are feeling better, Randi!

  2. Love this. I don’t understand why stool softeners aren’t prescribed alongside any narcotic, especially after surgery. While it wouldn’t stave off the chemo-related constipation, it sure would save a lot of post-surgical pain and anxiety.

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