In praise of bathrooms and healing

By Bruce Stambaugh

I normally don’t write about politics. I try to keep my news on the bright side.

That said, I had a lot of time to fill while recuperating from my recent surgery to remove my cancerous prostate. I listened to the radio, watched television, reflected on life’s really important matters, and appreciated the kindness and generosity of family, friends, neighbors, churches, businesses, organizations and even strangers.

Their cards, visits, well wishes, prayers, flowers and food all rather overwhelmed me. I found it humbling and heartwarming to be told that so many people in so many ways love you.

The post-surgery visit to the doctor was positive, although we will have to wait a month for the results of my next PSA test to be able to say that I am “cancer free.” All things considered, I am very upbeat about my progress so far.

That brings me back to the beginning. While recuperating, I was astonished to already hear so many detailed reports on who might be running for the opportunity to oppose our current president in the 2012 election.

That’s right. Next year’s presidential election was commanding headline media time and it’s only Spring 2011. It was enough to make you nauseous, more so than the pain medication did for me.

The recovery process required that I also listen to my body. Much of that dualistic listening took place in the bathroom, which may be the perfect spot to have to endure premature political discourse.

Even without having had surgery, I’ll confess that I have always loved both bathrooms and politics. In today’s age of sound bite mania, it’s hard to tell the two apart.

In being sensitive to what my body was telling me as it slowly healed, I had to carefully respond appropriately. After they mess with your plumbing, believe me, you don’t want to stray too far from the water closet.

But then, I already had that reputation. As a kid, I got ribbed about using the bathroom so much. I tried not to let it bother me. I knew my business better than others, so to speak, and I learned early on to make sure I took care of business as needed.

Honduran outhouse by Bruce Stambaugh
An outhouse in rural western Honduras.

I used to say that I never saw a bathroom I didn’t like, until I went to Honduras. And even then, I learned the valuable necessity of compromise. As I matured, which is still being debated, medical tests proved what I already knew. Bathrooms were my best friends.

When I go to meetings, I always sit on an end chair just in case. In junior high school, I had a permanent hall pass. I made NASCAR pit stops seem inconsequential.

Minutes, hours, days and now weeks after my delicate, nerve-sparing robotic prostate surgery, I have learned that spending quality time in bathrooms is both a necessity and a positive sign of healing. In that unmentionable course of action, I have learned that patience is definitely a virtue.

I am looking forward to the continued healing and to hopefully hearing the words “cancer free” at my next doctor’s appointment. About 218,000 men in the United States are diagnosed each year with prostate cancer and more than 35,000 die from it annually. (See BlueCure.com for more information.)

Given those statistics, I absolutely feel fortunate to be able to share, even if it is about bathrooms. Premature presidential politics, on the other hand, is another matter.

Author: Bruce Stambaugh

Writer, marketer, columnist, author, photographer, birder, walker, hiker, husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, township trustee, converted Anabaptist, community activist, my life is crammed with all things people and nature and wonder. My late father gave me this penchant for giving and getting the most out of life, my late mother the courtesy, kindness, and creativity to see the joy in life. They both taught me to cherish the people I am with. I try and fail and try again.

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