Traveling with Bladder Cancer

I travel a lot for work. Like a lot. This past fall I was home maybe four weeks out of sixteen. The winter months were a bit better, only on the road for two weeks out of twelve. Mind you, it’s not exotic travel. It’s business travel. And that means a roller bag filled to the brim holding twice what the specs said it would. And it also means packing “supplies.”

Regardless of the diversion you get - yes even a neobladder like me - you will need to pack supplies.

Load up

For those with pouches (Indiana or plastic) you will need your pouches, your catheters, maybe a couple of wafers for connecting the external bag. Neobladder folks will probably have to include some underwear shields, heavier pads, or in some cases, adult diapers for just in case moments. I myself have a couple of big washable pads I always travel with to put on the hotel bed to provide a bit of insurance against having to tell the maid I wet the bed. I also carry some extra catheters. I haven’t had to catheterize for 4 years but there’s this little voice in the back of my head that says - “what if you get plugged up?” It does happen. They are the self-lubricating kind but they’ve been in there so long they probably are dried up and more sandy than slippery. Ouch - remind me to swap out some fresh ones when I’m done here.

Don’t be embarrassed

I started traveling pretty soon after my surgery (4 months I think) and wasn’t as continent as I am now. Much more daily leaking and like a firehose at night. I had to carry a lot of supplies. I had a lot of accidents. And I was embarrassed all the time. If I had a bad night and had completely filled an adult diaper I was loathe to put it in the trash can in the room. I didn’t want the maids to see it. You’ll laugh, but many was the time I took the plastic laundry bag in the hotel room closet and filled that with the wet pads and diapers and take that bag to someplace else in the hotel to throw it away. Sometimes a men’s room by the hotel meeting rooms or maybe an outside dumpster. I was always careful to make sure there were no identifying marks or anything on or in the bag. You’d think I was disposing of crime scene evidence.

Think about that for a minute. A grown man wandering around a 4-star hotel with a bag of wet diapers looking for a stealth garbage can all because he we was too proud to admit he had cancer.

That is me. That may be you. In the end it really doesn’t matter.

You have cancer. Tell the rest of the world to get over it.

Loud and proud

I’ve gone from hiding my wet diapers to unabashedly confronting a woman outside a “family” bathroom in an airport. True story.

I was traveling and had used the family bathroom in an airport because I needed to change due to some rather voluminous leaking. The bathrooms in airports are notoriously small and I needed to get clothes out of my bag, put the wet stuff in a bag, get dressed, etc. The family bathrooms are much larger and therefore it is easier to get that done quickly. I did my thing and when I was exiting a woman with a child said that I shouldn’t be using the bathroom because it was for “families” and I wasn’t that. In my past life I’d have skulked away and hope no one saw me get the tongue lashing. But now… I simply said, calmly, but at a somewhat loud volume,

“I’m sorry. I have bladder cancer and needed to change and run a catheter to be sure I was voiding correctly. If you’d like to come in and help next time to make sure I’m not violating any family bathroom rules you’re more than welcome.”

OMG. The look on her face. #worthit

Traveling with bladder cancer isn’t as easy as traveling without it. But it is hardly a horrible imposition. I know when I first was diagnosed I thought I’d end up a shut in. But the world is accomodating and the biggest hurdle is your own mind.

Now, get out there and proudly use some family bathrooms!

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