View from the Hill
How To Survive The Hemoccult Experience
By Catherine Durkin Robinson
Jul 17, 2011 - 6:21:49 AM

LOS ANGELES—My mother says I complained about stinky diapers when I was 6 months old. Before my first birthday, I’d had enough of sitting in my own filth. I got undressed, grabbed a newspaper, climbed up on that porcelain throne and became a “big girl.”

Fast forward 30 years when I was blessed with baby boys. For the first year or so, I was able to change diapers without feeling anxiety or the urge to vomit.

Then they discovered raisins, squash and cheese.

When one of those hard, brown nuggets first fell out of their diapers on my nice, clean floor, you’d have thought a serial killer just fought his way into my house and came after me with a meat cleaver.

Neighbors still talk about their 9-1-1 calls that night with a hint of exasperation and humor.

Later that night, after the meds kicked in and the boys were asleep, I explained the episode to my mother.

“Catherine, relax,” she said. “It’s just poop.”

I took a deep breath.

“You know how you feel about cursing?” I asked.

My mother gasped. “Cursing is rude and improper behavior. It should only occur on the toilet with the shower running so no one can hear.”

“That’s exactly how I feel about bowel movements.”

This attitude is why I was so traumatized after a recent check-up with my hematologist. He asked me to give him a stool sample.

“We hardly know each other,” I said.

“It’s really very simple,” he said in the same tone my husband uses when he tries to get me to clean the pool. “You can do this in the privacy of your own home, in your own bathroom. Are you regular?”

“Everything is on a schedule,” I snapped, “including my mood swings and digestive system.”

“Well, then, tomorrow when you use the facilities”¦”

“Doc,” I said, “this is a huge inconvenience. My bathroom breaks are the only five minutes of peace I get all day, where I don’t have to answer geometry questions and can finally read a Rolling Stone article."

“You won’t have to take your iron supplements for a few days.”

“Go on,” I said.

Apparently, there are other habits that must stop during test-taking time as well. Remember how your parents taught you the importance of a courtesy flush? As soon as you hear the first “kerplunk,” you are supposed to jiggle the handle and make all the nastiness disappear?

When you are testing for signs of cancer, you can’t flush right away. I had to put the magazine down and take out a stick from the kit. I almost threw up five times while following the directions. At one point, I shut my eyes and accidentally dropped the stick in the toilet along with my dignity.


I grabbed another stick from the kit and soldiered on. After finishing a job I wish I had enough money to outsource, I accidentally flushed the lost stick down the toilet.

And by “accidentally,” I mean “on purpose.”

At the end of this ordeal, while washing my hands for four solid minutes, I listened to the berating taunts of two 11-year-old boys asking me to “hit the fan.” Husband wondered aloud if I had any “pets or livestock” in there with me.

The test came back negative, but talk about humiliating. I’d rather answer geometry questions.

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