THE POOP SCOOP (or a cautionary tale in which I learn not to believe everything I read on the web.)
I often use Dr. Google as a reference in health matters, instead of incurring the cost of going to my doctor, only to discover that he also, in order to answer my questions or address my symptoms, turns to his computer and googles.
Last week I became interested in why my poop was black. I wondered what that meant, knowing that poop color can signal illness or merely tell what a person has been eating; for example, red poop and pee means I’ve been eating beets. I hadn’t eaten beets, and the poop was black. So, I googled “black poop.”
Pages of sites popped up on my Google list. More people than I ever dreamed of had the same question. Perhaps black poop had become an outbreak of epidemic proportions. That thought gave me pause.
I clicked on the Mayo Clinic site and read. And froze. All systems froze. Denial arose. Surely what I read could not apply to me.
I clicked on the next site, and the next site–webmd.com. healthgrades.com. medicinenet.com.
No, I hadn’t drunk any Pepto-Bismol or eaten licorice, which could cause black poop. None of the possible non-horrible reasons suggested on these websites applied. That left only the horrible reasons.
As the saying goes, my shortened life flashed before my eyes. I might be afflicted with kidney disease or a perforated ulcer. Esophogeal, stomach or intestinal bleeding.
Oh, my god, I was going to die! I was going to die!
What was I going to do? Would I want a service or not? I weighed the pros and cons. Right then I decided I would not tell my husband of my findings just yet, because there were fun events coming up in our lives. I didn’t want to miss any of them in lieu of making preparations to die. I wouldn’t tell my friends, either, for the same reasons. I had things to do, it was summer, and I just wanted to enjoy my last moments on Earth.
I hoped only to have enough energy to complete my amusements. In order to determine my level of energy as a baseline, I took a quick assessment of my present condition. I felt fine. My stomach didn’t hurt. I peed right on schedule. I was amazingly healthy given what these sites told me I was dying of.
Feeling so well, I realized I was unwilling to accept my certain fate as promised by these websites, I hoped for another opinion. I opened another site, ibdcrohns.about.com, and read more. There, off to the side under a photo of a bowl of blueberries, I read, “A bowl of blueberries is a healthy snack but they can also turn your stool black, causing ‘false melena.’”
Why the heck wasn’t this exception placed FIRST in all the symptom explanations of ALL the sites? Why did I have to die at least four deaths before I came to this sentence?
Of course. I’d picked blueberries two days before, and when I pick blueberries, it’s four for me and one or two for the bowl. In this manner, I’m certain I ate waaaay more than one cup of blueberries. Please assure me I’m not the only one who picks blueberries this way. How can one refrain when the blueberries are fat, fresh, tasty, healthy for us, and so readily available?
I offer readers this cautionary tale in case some of you pick blueberries the way I do and suffer the consequences, then in your search for explanation regarding your symptom do not find the teensy relieving photo and sentence. I also offer this cautionary tale if you have a dramatic bent and only a small wisp of common sense and leap immediately to the worst conclusion.
The lesson in my newfound wisdom is this: Many doctors hate Dr. Google for a reason. Don’t believe everything you read on the web.