cancer diary

22. Home & away with catheter

A catheter can be quite useful from time-to-time. It certainly makes it easier to accurately water the lemon tree. But it introduces a level of obstruction that can be quite inhibiting and it sure feels good to have the tube removed.

This morning, Priscilla the urology nurse, gave me a shot of antibiotics in the bum and injected some saline solution through the catheter into my bladder. Then she pulled out the tube (didn’t hurt) and asked me to demonstrate my ability to to s s stop and s s start a pee over a kind of portable toilet. She then gave me a bag of pads (like nappies) which you stuff into your undies. I’m optimistic because I seem to have some control over when I pee. Getting in and out of cars and standing up from sitting seems to involve a warm feeling associated with leakage.

For anyone who’s never had a catheter, you still have the urge to pee, but not the direct capacity. It just seems to happen of its own accord. The main problem that I’ve experienced with the catheter is where the rubber tube goes into my zab (penis). It’s somewhat tender and the more I walk the more tender it gets.

It took me a day or so to realise that the way the nurse had set it up on my leg was wrong. First, I moved the holding band round to my inner thigh where it was a little more comfortable. Second, I tightened the rubber loop that holds the main drain tube. This was too loose and, as a result, when I was walking up the street I could feel the whole thing sliding down my leg and tugging at the tube in my bladder. It’s a trade off between being tight enough to hold a full bag and loose enough not to cut of the circulation in my leg.

catheter tube arrangement

catheter tube arrangement

I’ve also learnt to take it all off when I have a shower so that the elastic leg bands don’t get wet. This just leaves the tube hanging down and is much easier to clean.

A lesser problem is that the leg bag (being plastic) is quite sweaty. A delux model catheter would have some kind of non-sweat backing, a rounder tap (so that it doesn’t catch) and some form of non-constricting (crimping) entry and exit points. Being a compulsive measurer, I do like the ml graduations. It’s quite reassuring to see a good 500ml in the morning night bag. My practice, at night, was to leave the bag on the floor and make sure my leg was aligned to the edge of the bed so that the leg bag wasn’t crimping. Anxiety about crimping disturbed sleep.

Yesterday I had a call (mobile). One goes into a special space on mobile calls that can involve walking around a bit. At one point I was out in the street and some passers by looked at me strangely. Of course, I was in shorts (due to the heat) with my catheter hanging out. Could this me the new punk look for the over 50s?

the new fashion

the new fashion

A friend sent me this image: ‘On Cup day a few weeks ago I saw a 40ish woman getting out of the train, wearing her best purple satin flowing dress, obligatory little feather hat. It was obvious that she had had the odd drink during the day. Her extremely full leg bag had obviously slipped down and was hanging somewhere on the inside of her knee. It was a very curious sight. Must have been quite uncomfortable to walk with it.’

It’s been a week (last Tuesday) since I came home. I’m amazed at the body’s ability to repair itself. On Wednesday, I was able to walk up to Northcote Plaza (about 2K) without any difficulty or exhaustion. We went to see a film and saw ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. I had been warned that it might be painful to sit, and it was a little, but this has mainly passed now. From Thursday on, I felt even better and 20% more agile each day. By agile, I mean able to stand on one leg and put on my socks, able to do up my shoe laces, able to pick things off the floor, comfortable sitting, able to lie in comfortable positions in bed, able to go up stairs normally – not one step at a time. Able to walk as far as I liked.

Since the operation I’ve been taking two capsules of 500 IU of Vitamin E each morning along with a Osterlin Vitamin D (25mcg cholecalciferol) and since yesterday, two antioxidant compound tablets morning and evening. Prior to the operation I was taking one of the antioxidant tablets each day and two 1000mg Fish oil capsules with a vitamin D.

The secret to this miraculous recovery, I put down to the 3G modem and your daily encouragement.

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  1. Liz Dovey

    Hahaha (as my younger friends now say in text and Facebook – interesting to see a new language emerging)

    Definitely a new fashion – most debonair! Hadn’t realised the intricacies of catheter bag management – thanks for the lowdown (hahaha again, or perhaps LOL).

    Down at Somers now and looking forward to sneaking an opportunity to visit between taking my turn minding dad so JJ gets a break.

    Hope you have a fantastic Christmas in the meantime!

  2. James

    You make it almost (only ‘almost’ though :)) sound appealing to a fairly frequent loo user during beers.

    Also, if you could get over the crimping anxiety, not getting up in the night for a pee might be a bonus too.

    Having said that, I doubt I’m about to volunteer for one.

    I did also wonder, when first scanning over the first picture, if you had crossed the final pictorial boundary… but not quite, just yet 🙂

  3. Simon

    Well James, I have plenty of images that probably would cross that boundary but I wouldn’t want to frighten anyone. Besides, I think I’m able to make the point. But perhaps I’m being a bit limp…

  4. Gerald Norton-Knight

    The last encounter I had with a catheter was with Kay’s brother (Greg) last Xmas. He had a blockage, so took him to emergency where they inserted the catheter. Not feeling to flash he went to bed early on Xmas eve. As is our way we had stuffed up the sleeping arrangements with about 20 of Kay’s family staying. Kay remembered there was a swag under Greg’s bed and not wanting to wake him (and after a lot of Rosby reds), I fished around under his bed in the dark till I found the swag. Sliding it across the floor it snagged on something and it being dark and me being drunk, gave it as good yank to free it. Greg woke screaming someone was trying to rip his dick off. I’m sure it was painful, but gave us something to laugh about over Xmas lunch. Meery Xmas.

  5. Simon

    Great story Gerald! Any other catheter stories out there?

  6. Lisa Roberts

    Yes, an excellent look.

  7. Tony Marx

    Hi Simon
    Are you still reading this blog?
    Joy told me about it and I have just read it. Good on you for sharing such a personal experience!
    How are you feeling now?
    Have a hug from Rob and me and pass it on to Susan

  8. Simon

    Thanks Tony. On New year’s day I drove the 1000ks to the Warrumbungles where I’ve set myself the gaol of reading Proust’s ‘a la recherche du temps perdu’. Just finished volume 2 of 6 and am enjoying lying low and walking up mountains for exercise. Seems to be good for me as I’m feeling terrific.

  9. Lisa

    Strange how attracted I feel to visiting your Blog after all these months, Simon. How privileged I feel to have shared a small part of what must have been for you a great journey into the unknown. Revisiting your journey helps me to maintain perspective of my own. Your candor and persistence continue to challenge and inspire.

  10. CJ

    i have one and i use a lil vaseline or lube on the tip to make it where it doesnt get so sore.
    also i keep the tube in front of zab clean as much as possible all the time.
    the other thing i did was go to wal mart and put bondex outdoor restore nylon patch on the back and front so it is all black now instead of the ugly plastic and the sweating is all but gone.
    if that doesnt work you can put sticky velcro on the back and it is cloth.
    as to showering i got a gallon triple lock bag, cut it to width and retaped it and i put that over the bag and shower and it keeps it dry and i just keep it clean w a washrag.
    i taped up the back of the holder and just use sport tape if i need it to hold it in place. the rubber straps seem to work fine w nothing else.

    maybe this will help someone else that reads this. it is working great for me

  11. nodrog

    As a BPH patient, I hated dealing with the urinary collection bag. Then I discovered a unique device that I connect to the hub of the Foley catheter that replaces the bag. This neat little product has given me back my freedom and social life. Check it out at, it will change your life for the better.

  12. Ryan Carolan

    Hi Simon,
    I don’t know if you will receive this, but Dean Keep suggested that I get in contact with you. I am a Journalism student at Swinburne and currently in the process of making an on-line documentary about cancer patients and survivors. If you are interested in being part of it please send me an e-mail, and we can arrange a time for an interview. I look forward to (hopefully) hearing from you!

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