A man holds a protest sign with a port a potty on it in front of his big rig

Demand Your Port-a-Potty

I am a truck driver. I drive a local run with a tanker. The sites where we unload did not have any washrooms. We did not have access to any facilities after an hour ride. This was difficult for everyone, but for me, it was problematic.

My grandmother used to say I had the bladder of a field mouse, and I always carried a Mason jar on car rides so I did not make my grandfather nuts stopping all the time. That issue has followed me into adulthood. My urologist always admonishes me to stay hydrated. I drink coffee all day, to stay hydrated and because life without coffee is no life for me. So, to recap, I have a small bladder, an old prostate, a need to stay hydrated, a coffee fetish, and a job with no toilets. What could possibly go wrong?

I approached my company about getting access to toilets

I approached the company about getting us access to the toilets or to a Port-a-Potty. The excuses ranged from silly to ludicrous. I kept at it. The day came when the customer where we dumped off saw a driver relieving himself next to his truck and threatened to ban us from the site. The company told us we would be disciplined if we were caught whizzing next to our trucks.

Getting a doctor's note

I contacted my doctor and asked for a note stating my need for toilet access. I contacted my union and told them of the issues. Finally, I called the company and offered all of my notes and requests and suggested that my lawyer would be making any additional calls if they became necessary. The next morning, we had a pretty blue Port-a-Potty at the larger site. Still nothing at the second site.

I was angry

I received my work assignment for the following day and was being sent to the second site. I called dispatch and informed them I would not be going to the site until they had facilities to accommodate my needs. Suggestions for possible disciplinary measures were gently floated in my direction. I remained resolute. More unpleasantries from the boss were forthcoming. Now, I was angry. I realized that the likelihood of the company doing the right thing was dwindling fast, and I was not budging. I refused the assignment, “You do what you need to do. I will take care of the rest. Have a good night, Boss."

It was several months before I was dispatched to the small site again, but when I was, I found a shiny new Port-a-Potty waiting there. I work for a great company, and they are willing to listen and do what they can, within reason, but I have to make sure they have something to listen to.

Ask for everything you need

What I am saying is that if we need an accommodation, we need to vocalize the need. This is going to be uncomfortable the first time or two or ten, but keep at it. Cancer is not a spectator sport. There is no room for quiet acceptance. Ask for everything you need to until you are sure that you are getting what is best for you.

Make your voice heard

So many of us have been conditioned to not make waves. “Don’t rock the boat.” “Go along to get along.” There is no room for that mentality in this arena. Make waves! Stomp in the mud until it runs down your face. Challenge. Ask. Make your voice heard, even if it squeaks. This is our one life, and cancer threatens it. If I need a Port-a-Potty, I’m asking. If I need longer breaks so I can do whatever I need to do, I am asking. If I need to rest or move slower, I will do it. We can overcome this, but we have to let go of any timid notions and advocate for ourselves. We have to take the leadership role, even when dealing with experts and doctors and professionals.  This is our one life, and it is worth getting vocal to see that we are heard.

I have found most people to be understanding and helpful, given the opportunity. Some need to be given that opportunity more than once. Doctors have told me that they are used to patients who just want to be told what to do. That said, you may need to explain that you will be involved in your treatment and that you will have questions. My doctors have been happy to answer my queries, once they understood I was fully invested in my outcomes.

Believe in yourself

Take time to educate yourself, advocate for yourself, and honor yourself and the needs you have. Read my “Mental Health” article. This is a whole being fight - mind, body, and spirit. I believe in you! Believe in yourself!

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