All cancer treatments have side effects, and my current meds are no exception; I try to think of it as a yin-yang thing. This time round I get to keep my hair, but I have debilitating muscle fatigue, inflammation of the blood vessels. . .and constipation.

You do not often see Writing and Constipation mentioned in the same sentence, but this week, I’ve been suffering blockages at both ends.

“Prunes” you suggest, with a knowing nod.

“Strong coffee” you recommend, with a wry smile.

Orange juice, spinach juice, warm baths, warm water, Epsom Salts, Himalayan Salts; you name them I’ve tried them. Everyone has a constipation solver that works for them, but soaking in warm salts whilst sipping warm spinach juice takes the clean eating trend to extreme lows, and I beg you not to try it. Fibre has become my middle name; stuffed with so much roughage, I have forgotten the taste of smoothage.

I have also forgotten how it feels to write. The title Constipated Writing seemed amusing on Sunday, but has lost its allure by Tuesday when nothing flows and the laptop screen remains stubbornly blank. I forget about ‘flow’ and settle for a word. Alas, a word is still too much, so I type a capital letter followed by a comma and look for hidden meaning, but all I see is the blank paper staring back at me.

In search of ideas, I go for a walk and in a show of solidarity, the cat trots alongside. He has writing inspiration in abundance, and tummy tickles are all he asks in return for sharing. I sit on the grass, he lays on his back in the sunshine and as I tickle, he gradually seeps into endorphin oblivion, with a purr reverberating deep in his throat and a drool of pleasure dribbling down his chin. He tells me nothing, except to never believe a philanthropic cat. 

Next stop is Bruce. The wise old horse has the answer to most problems, and while they sometimes take a bit of translating, I’ve learnt that a single ear twitch is worth a thousand words. He is in his field feasting on spring grass, and eyes me with equine insouciance. I perch on the edge of the water trough waiting for his attention, so I can begin the dialogue. I’ve obviously picked the wrong day, because today his dialogue is all about eating, and it takes precedence over anything I might have to say. He makes it abundantly clear he has no wish to engage with a constipated mind, before walking away to continue grazing at the far end of the field.

When I began my blog, I set myself a weekly deadline of Thursday publication. It is now Wednesday and the page remains blank. I’m spending a lot of time doing not much in the bathroom, so I decide to set aside my moral scruples of reading on the toilet, and hoping for writing inspiration, I revisit the classics. It’s not a good idea because the classics are too beautiful to browse, so the next stop is poetry, and favourites ee cummings, Thich Nhat Hahn and Christina Rossetti are prised from the bookshelf. They all have a beautiful rhythm, but still no go. A short, pithy magazine is next. Alas, numbness of thighs and brain (who writes this stuff?) kicks in before inspiration.

While I’m at the bookshelf I come across a copy of ‘Healing Back Pain’ by John Sarno, and remember his theory that physical problems are often protective avoidance of focusing on the real issue. Present life is full of events and decisions way beyond my understanding. Is the inability to release anything physically or creatively a need to keep everything ‘in’ because containment is all I can control? Is constipation less a gut imbalance and more about giving my brain something safer to worry about than what is happening in the real world. Is sharing the truth to a page too painful at this sensitive time?

Now it’s Thursday morning, and I’ve been sitting at the laptop since I woke at 5a.m. These precious early mornings are my writing time, but not today.

When Mark comes down for breakfast, he says “What’s up, you’ve been staring at that screen for days.”

He hands me a cup of tea and waits while I explain everything that’s going on; I’m reluctant to discuss constipation with my husband. By the time I’ve finished the tea he has the whole sorry story.

“Simple” he says. “Write down what you’ve just told me. They’ll all understand because they’re human too, and its okay to be normal. You don’t have to be profound every week, you just have to be you.”

Being honest is one thing, being human is another; or is that just avoidance of being mortal? Either way, so long as things start flowing again, who cares?

11 thoughts on “Blockage

  1. Dearest Elaine, I have to confess I feel a guilty pleasure at often being the first commenter, at least on this platform. I don’t know why …it feels a bit like you’ve been talking just to me, and I feel briefly special. I love having the kind of friends that I can tell these things to, and know that they will basically say, “Oh, yeah, I hate when that happens!” And, once again, a reminder of the good fortune to have a partner like Mark, who presumes neither too little nor too much about how he can be of assistance. For me, the setting of a goal always carries the risk of failure, so I’ve pivoted from goals to intentions, to spare myself the wrath of…whatever it is that makes me agonize when I falter in my striving. Reaching goals may have a much more profound meaning for you, though, and I love the way you met this one! When all else fails, share your feelings! Thank you.


    1. yes Susan, sharing feelings is probably the best answer to most things…especially when you start to share them with yourself.
      I have to confess I love a goal, I always feel better when I’m reaching


  2. Does writing about not writing count as not writing? (You win!) As a woman who has a long term relationship with her bowel that has always been well… complicated…I sadly nod along; the worthless remedies are like useless adverbs. In my first month of blogging, an expert told me I shouldn’t keep a deadline, that I would show my shortcomings that way. It sounded like an excuse. I wanted to depend on my words, to know creativity was free, not the luxury of expensive probiotics. We can come to worship a blockage when it comes to writing. So now, it’s Thursday morning here. My blog day, but now, ten years in, I get to start the day with your blog, I have a companion on this road. I know I won’t be eating dinner with my husband tonight; the writing is never far enough along. I will spend the day, with the fascination of a teenage boy addicted to computer war games. Writing is easy, it’s the self-judgment that takes time, so instead, I will finger my words, turn them belly up and sideways. I will make a thing of ideas, from the part of me that sometimes needs to be ‘lead from behind’ to work. You might have done that with this one? Thanks, my friend. No idea what I’ll write today. Kind of dreadfully thrilling.


  3. Elaine, your blogs touch me deeply, whether they are about bowels or Bruce. I once worked for a rather crude man who asked in his heavy Israeli accent, “Why is the ***hole the most important part of the body?” The three ladies at the lunch table murmured polite responses and he continued, “Because if you can’t s**t, you can’t think about anything else.” There is truth in Yossi’s observation, and perhaps we could apply the same to writing. During chemo Senekot-S was my best friend, but I’ve always lived on the other side of the bowel conundrum: too much, too often. It probably didn’t take much to keep things moving along even though my colon was reeling from chemical attack. Your husband is wise: I love reading about other humans being human. I’m sorry for your toilet trouble but I’m not sorry to read about it. In fact, I’d say that at least one blockage successfully cleared.


  4. As your Mark said,” just tell them what you told me” such a good friend that dear man of yours. And so you did …and so you always do . I think that we doo compromise our bodies with stuffed down emotions and truths. My vary painful hip is much better after David’s scan was clean. Likely your meds are the villain . And this too shall pass, Hee Hee just a little bathroom humor. I know too sophomoric . Till later.


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