My mother and dad are/were A-types. They divorced when I was ten, but they both continued busy lives and many common practices. One of those, perhaps not usually discussed in polite society, was that they rarely took time for bowel movements.

They were impatient about answering nature’s call, and claimed it could be put off until more convenient times. Sometimes, the convenience came several days, even a week later.

When I married, my husband had an entirely different philosophy. If you felt the urge, everybody and everything else waited. When I finally quit arguing with him about it, I liked the idea.

The summer he was 53, Daddy developed what was diagnosed as a stomach virus. It lasted from May until September 18th, when doctors operated, opened him up, then stitched him closed. The cancer had begun in his bowel––his colon––had metasticized to his liver and was everywhere. He had “maybe a year” to live. He endured three agonizing months, until December third, when he died.

Oddly enough, when Mother was 70, she felt a lump in her stomach. A terrific doctor in Dallas opened her up to find cancer in her colon, which had attached to, but had not invaded other organs. She had great muscle tone and the medical team aggressed, removing part of her colon, one-third of her stomach, and scraped the disease from other essential parts of her. An estimated 45-minute procedure took nearly four hours. The surgical nurse emerged looking triumphant. They had gotten it all. They recommended chemo, but the doctor was certain.

Twelve years later, a regular colonoscopy revealed more cancer. It had begun in the old scar tissue. Again, the medical people defeated the culprit. She again had chemo. Mother is 91 now, still going strong.

With both Mother and Daddy having had colon cancer, when I turned sixty, with some urging, I had a colonoscopy. It was clear. That set me thinking, remembering my parents as a hard-charging young couple. They both were exercise nuts. They ate lot of fresh fruits and veggies, and little red meat. What was the common denominator? Intense, busy lives? Surely that did not create the problems.

I was intense and busy and had their genetics. Where was the difference? Finally, I drew a conclusion. Because it seems crass, I haven’t shared it until now, but because it seems like a real possibility, I decided I should. Taking time for the bathroom when it’s inconvenient, could not possibly make such a huge difference to a human body.

Or does it?


About sharonervin

I write novels for and about women. I work half-days in my husband and son's law office. A former newspaper reporter, I have a B.A. in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. I have four grown children.
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5 Responses to MY OPINION

  1. marilynm says:

    Definitely a good warning. Though talking about bowels may gross some out, it’s an important subject.

  2. Coco Ihle says:

    Good for you, Sharon, for sharing a story on a subject many people might avoid. You might be saving a life!

  3. Jackie King says:

    Very interesting. I didn’t find it gross, although I probably would have at 20.

  4. Cameron says:


    I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?




  5. This isn’t about your blog per se,I haven’t heard from you in a long while and and have been wondering how your son is who was diagnosed with cancer. Your blog about your parents reminded me about that dread disease.

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