Duncan: Everybody poops, even in public, and it’s kind of empowering

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The women's restroom at Mimi's Coffee Shop | Megan Duncan

It was recently International Women’s Day, and a big part of that is empowerment.

One of my greatest moments of empowerment as a woman — or perhaps just as a human — starts with pooping. All of my life, I have been afraid to poop in public restrooms.

I just can’t stand the thought of someone else walking in afterwards or the person in the next stall gagging, then awkwardly meeting at the sink to wash our hands together.

Honestly, I don’t know why this is such a big deal. I mean, I don’t get mad or think anything of a person who smells up the room while I am in it. I might want to get out quick, but I don’t blame it on them.

This has become a bigger problem since I started working in coffee shops regularly. I cover Hannibal for Muddy River News. I live on a farm about 20 minutes out of Hannibal, so I often work in town to go where I need to throughout the day.

This is something Muddy River is working on. We plan to have a Hannibal office soon, but for now I am coffee shop hopping throughout the day.

It’s actually pretty fun. There are great places to go, and coffee is life.

However, that no-poop-in-public problem creeps up sometimes.

A friend brought me a brand new perspective on this recently. Jennifer Epperson is open and honest about what she went through.

Jennifer was diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer in March 2021. After experiencing what she thought could be symptoms of the disease, she took a mail-in test offered by Blessing Healthcare System during the month of March, which is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

When she received the results, she immediately went in for a colonoscopy, which resulted in a surgery to remove more than a foot of her colon and more than two dozen lymph nodes.

The cancer had not spread. Jennifer didn’t have to go through chemotherapy or radiation.

She is cancer free today.

One night when we went with a group of girls to a dinner cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat, Jennifer brought a whole new perspective on my pooping problem.

I had already decided that I was going to get on the dance floor with another friend who came with us that night. But after the meal, which was so good I ate more than my stomach could handle, it began to rumble and hurt. I knew exactly what the problem was. I sat there miserably looking at lucky folks coming in and out of the boat’s bathroom conveniently on the same floor, which also made me even more worried.

I was to the point of sweating when I finally told my friends about it.

Jennifer laughed and said, “Girl, I have learned to poop no matter where I am at!”

Turns out that after her surgery, she just has to go when nature calls her. She can’t really hold it in anymore.

I was amazed by this. I mean, with everything she went through, I knew she was brave. When I realized she was now poop-in-public brave — it changed my life.

That very night, I marched to the bathroom and came out feeling like a brand new person.

No one really seemed to notice. I don’t think at least, but if they did, it was pretty quickly forgotten and forgiven.

Now I just go when I need to go — no need to feel miserable. My body needs to do what God designed it to do.

That is just empowerment on a whole new level.

It’s real.

It’s saying that we are all just human, and sometimes humans are just stinky.

It’s true.

It doesn’t have to be bathroom-related.

We all have those stinky and messy parts of life that we just want to hide away. It doesn’t mean we have to put all of our dirty laundry out there (Hello Facebook drama), but we don’t have to be ashamed either.

Marital issues, parenting problems, job concerns. Days we make a mistake, and we just can’t imagine anyone else being as big of a screwup as we are.

Days when the family is at each other’s throats, and we just can’t imagine the family next door like that.

We just can’t believe someone might raise their hands to say “Me too!” if they really see you. But they do. People are oddly similar in so many ways. This is something I have learned just by putting myself out there.

Funny because it’s actually a lot easier for me to publicly talk about arguing with my husband or making a big mistake than it is walking out of a stinky bathroom.

I have learned God often uses a testimony of truth to help others. We all have struggles, and we are all vulnerable.

And we all poop too.

So stay regular friends! No matter where you are.

If Jennifer can do it, we can too.

(Her story is also a great reminder to stay up-to-date with your cancer checks. Thanks to early detection, she discovered her cancer before it spread, and regular testing is the best way to do that.)

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