Subscribe to RSS Feed for recent updates
Subscribe to RSS Feed for recent updates








For me, prostate cancer brought many fears and worries to the fore, besides the possible consequences of cancer and my mortality. One of these was how I would gain control of the bladder and avoid incontinence, one of the potential side effects of my choice of treatment - surgery.

During surgery, a catheter is inserted and is left in place for about three weeks while the remaining sphincter learns to cope with it's increased workload. So my first objective was to come through the operation without too much pain and to survive the three weeks of the catheter. Survive might sound strong, but the thought of having a plastic tube stuck into my penis was almost as frightening as the post-catheter fear of not having control of my bladder and being swathed in diapers for the rest of my life

Early on the 26th of February 2001, I checked into the urology ward. The first thing I noticed were the bags that most of the patients were carrying around with them. These bags were attached to their penises via the catheters. Would I be so casual and at ease with my bag? I noted that there did not seem to be a 'standard' way of wearing this accessory. Some carried the bags in their hands, others had them hooked onto the pocket of those awful hospital gowns. Many of them were full of a reddish liquid while others were a piss-yellow. I now realize that I had resigned myself to what ever awaited me and would make the best of the situation. I knew that within 24 hours, I might be joining the "club".

Let me explain: one of the fears of cancer in the prostate is that the cancer has escaped from the confines of the prostate and spread to the surrounding areas. If this is found to be the case, the surgeon will abort the procedure and would not remove the prostate nor insert a catheter. In one of the books I had read, the author tells how, on coming around after surgery, he immediately felt to confirm that the catheter was in place and was ecstatic to find the tube protruding from his penis. It confirmed that the cancer had been confined to the prostate. I too found myself reaching for my penis, on coming around from my surgery, for that comforting confirmation that the cancer was out of my body. The catheter was in place and a new phase of my life had begun.

That first night after surgery I dreamt that I was drowning in piss. The following morning I woke up to find that I was lying in a bloody liquid. During the night, the bag had worked loose from the catheter and I was lying in the resultant spill of bloody urine. That was my first disillusionment about my 'comforting attachment'. However, there is always an up side to everything. Two young, good-looking student nurses were sent to bed-bath me: not that I could appreciate their touch! But I enjoyed the experience of being sponged and pampered.

The handling of the bag soon became a subconscious action. For example, when lying on the bed, I hung the bag on the bed railings and of course had to remember when getting out of the bed to attach the bag to my gown. I suffered no pain after the operation and was walking around the following day. As the bag filled up, it became heavy and I soon learned where spare bags were kept so that I would not be carrying the extra weight. The nurses changed bags three times a day, but I did it at least six times daily. The patient's progress was judged by the color of the urine in the bag. In other words, discharge from the hospital could only be considered when blood no longer showed in the urine. What a relief I felt on the fourth day when I woke up to a clear bag. However, after exercising, there was the reddish hue in the bag again and I realized that exercise at this stage was out of the question. More than anything I wanted to go home.

On the morning of the sixth day, after ward rounds, the chief surgeon said I could go home. I phoned my wife, Myrna, to buy a leg bag to attach to the catheter and to come and pick me up. Now I was faced with another problem. I was not going to walk around the streets with the piss bag in hand or hooked to my trousers. Myrna was picking me and my catheter up at the main entrance to the hospital (there is no parking near the hospital) with the leg bag. How to manage? I solved the problem by scrounging a large safety pin from one of the nurses and pinned the bag to the inside of my trousers. At home I would attach the leg bag.

The leg bag has straps for attachment to the leg, and a tube, which you plug into the protruding appendage dangling from your penis. At the bottom of the bag is a tap whereby you can drain the urine when it fills up. The nurses suggested that I use a standard bag whenever I lay down.

The catheter created an unexpected problem the first time Myrna and I lay down together. For years before going to sleep we would cuddle for a few minutes, which meant turning inwards. The bag was lying on the floor at my side of the bed and the connecting tube made this move very uncomfortable for me. While in hospital, I had not encountered this problem as the bag was hooked on to the bed, thus allowing more freedom of movement. Another obstacle to overcome and a change of habit.

I soon settled down to a routine of changing or emptying the bags. When going to lie down, I would walk to the bedroom dragging the bag on the floor behind me. My daughter had been in India and had photographed a guru with a rock suspended from his erect penis and I pictured myself building up the muscles to do similar feats. We went to a party and I found it amusing when swinging my leg, to watch the expression on the faces of people who heard the sloshing (from the urine bag) - which of course was covered by trousers-and not knowing where the sound was coming from!

After three weeks of "wearing" the catheter, it was time to take it out. Then I had frightening thoughts about the extent of control I would have of my bladder. Would I have any control at all? My fears of incontinence after the operation made me determined to create as much control as possible. For two months prior to the operation I had being doing exercises to strengthen the sphincter muscles. On my discharge from the hospital, I was told to bring adult diapers on the day that I would have my catheter removed, as there could be a steady uncontrollable flow of urine. After the relatively easy time I had had up to now, I felt confident that I would have some sort of control, so decided to find the thickest sanitary pads available and took them with me on my return to the hospital to have the catheter removed. The nurse who removed the catheter raised her eyebrows and mumbled something about me being an optimist, when she saw me putting the pad in place. Well, optimist or not, after three days I was down to using only two pads a day. Furthermore, after a week, I was using one a day. After two weeks, I was using one ultra thin panty liner a day.

I cannot say that I was sad or depressed to part with my catheter. Six weeks after the operation; I had control of my bladder. The next hurdle was: would my potency return or would I use Viagra or other potency aids?

Lenny hasn't written up his experiences as far as potency is concerned.