A New Neobladder: Life Goes On
Once I had the staples and all the drainage paraphernalia removed, I was ready to start living my “new” life again. I had a bladder that thought it was still a colon, so I had to learn how to deal with it. The first step was self-catheterization; it sounds a lot worse than it really is. Don’t forget that when the bladder is removed, so is the prostate, and it was that nasty little bugger that made it so hard to get the catheter into the bladder. Without the prostate, it was clear sailing. That’s not to say I wasn’t worried when nurse Monica gave me my one and only lesson. She explained the procedure in straight laymen’s terms even I could understand.
I got used to self-catheterizing quickly
The catheter size depends on your size; in other words, one size does not fit all. It’s about 12 inches long, not as thick as a pencil and is made of some kind of plastic. When inserting into your urethra, it’s important to use a water-based lubricant. It’s a painless procedure, and I got used to it very quickly.
I drink plenty of water
I was told to drink plenty of water after surgery, and to this day, I consume probably 5-6 liters a day, if not more depending on how active I am. I also self-catheterize every night. The neobladder, as I mentioned, still thinks its a colon, and it produces a lot of mucus. Drinking lots of water makes it easier to pass the mucus. I also take a supplement called Pharmanac; it helps to reduce the amount of mucus produced. Some days there’s lots, other days very little. There are many products on the market like Pharmanac; it’s just the one I use. I like to think that self-catheterization and lots of water are the reasons I haven’t had any blockage or urethra cramping.
Urinating with a neobladder
Urinating takes on a new meaning as well. At first, you have no control over your bladder, absolutely none. I always made sure I “drained the swamp” before heading out to do errands or visit friends. I found it much easier to sit to pee than stand up. I have better control to force the urine out than by standing. I still sit to pee; it makes my wife very happy because the seat is never left up. If I was worried that an accident might occur when I was out, I wore a diaper. Depends are great, virtually invisible and very effective. I wear one every night to bed because once I fall asleep, I am 100% incontinent. I just drain all night. I also sleep on a mattress shield to protect the bed. You’d be amazed how many mattresses you can ruin in a very short period of time.
My confidence started to return
Slowly but surely, I started to get feeling back into my bladder and could predict when I had to go. I no longer relied on a diaper when I was out. As my strength improved and my confidence started to return, I began to question why I had waited so long to get the surgery done.
Have you talked to your doctor about navigating sex with bladder cancer?