1977. I am freshman in college. Young, thin, active, in my prime. Then one day I confront the dreaded.
No, no, not a “fiery crash.” (Is there any other kind? ) But…
Before I clue you in, I must say that I am an aficionado of rare disease. Perhaps it was my wonderment as I paged through the World Book Encyclopedia, neatly arranged on the family room shelf in my childhood home. My goodness!
Some of the pages feature women half-naked, balancing water vessels on their head.
And the “spider” entry! Frightening! This entry was enhanced by a careful reading of one of the Nancy Drew mysteries that involved a spider at the most tense moment! (I was a devotee of Nancy, not to mention her father Carson, housekeeper Hannah Gruen, friends Beth (plump) and George (surely gay), and boyfriend (Ned Nickerson). All gathered on the “veranda” or in her “roadster.”
But I digress from the realization that I was at the end of my life — at 18 years of age, in the prime of dorm life. What was wrong? The dreaded, “BLOOD in the STOOL”
Yep. I knew. Certain. Sad, but true. At such a young age, I was to be struck down with CANCER. Although frightened, I resolved to be strong. In my obituary, they could say I “battled” cancer. I stared it down — with a smile.
So I carried my head high. Of course I didn’t tell anyone. That would not be “noble.” I merely made my appointment at the college health clinic and carried on, knowing that when I went to my appointment, the doctor would struggle to look me in the eye but deliver the diagnosis. Blood in stool = death.
Then I went to my appointment.
The doctor breezed in, did a quick exploration of my nether regions, and, stripping off her gloves with nary a care in the world, pronounced: “You have hemorrhoids.”
Sure, I didn’t want to die of cancer but must I succumb to hemorrhoids? Isn’t that an affliction of the elderly? I am 18. In my prime. How can I face my peers knowing I am afflicted with hemorrhoids?????
Luckily, contemporaneously with my pseudo-cancer diagnosis, my always-upbeat roommate Patty was in-patient at the college health clinic with strep (or some such not-cancer diagnosis). After the startling diagnosis of hemorrhoids at the tender age of 18, I went up to the in-patient floor to visit Patty. And I confessed my illness.
She laughed so hard I feared a health setback. Then I laughed. Prior to my visit with Patty, I was wondering if I could somehow acquire cancer. Surely that was better than admitting I had hemorrhoids a/k/a “piles”?
Post my confession, I thought Patty would wet herself. Then I thought I would wet myself.
Yet here I am. 45 years later. Still kickin’. In a few weeks, I turn 64.
Thank God for my bowels. #blessed