Chapter 23 – Travel News

Chapter 23 – Travel News

August 19

I guess it’s been a while since I wrote to you all. Getting well turns out to be very time-consuming. But I am here to tell you that things are going pretty well, and the super bad juju of the last six months has faded to a distant memory. Not forgotten, mind you, just not so sharp and clear. Instead I have been focused on moving forward, traveling and freeing myself from the safety net of home.

I had to start with baby steps.

Step one … to use a public restroom … an adventure in and of itself involving rubber gloves and adhesive bandages in conflict with one another … that step comes under the heading live and learn!

Step two …  to be gone from home for the day and conduct business as usual … driving beyond the edge of town, meeting with a client on a design job, and then going on to have lunch with a friend and shop afterwards … all went well, and I felt free of a lot of baggage when I got home. It was great to be able to know that I could be independent and function normally once again.

Step three … to take a trip to visit my sister and her family for the weekend … this involved driving a fair distance, taking the ferry to Long Island, and functioning overnight in a new environment. It also involved stairs and a swimming pool, a bit of liquid celebrating, and in general a lot of activities that interacted with my new plumbing in unexpected ways. But I survived. I panicked only briefly and then adapted, so that once again I gained some ground in the war against being a slave to my condition.

So now the next big step is to take a road trip with my friend Ashby. The trip will involve a couple of days of car travel and a few days in a rental house shared with friends from college. I am really looking forward to it, and have every expectation of having a great time.

I have worked out the transport system for all the accoutrement that needs to come with me. My supplies, which have their own rolling case, are a fairly significant presence, but with luck there will be room for some clothes and shoes and beach towels as well. If not, there is always shopping as an option.

I am at home with the whole shopping thing, and spending the day doing semi-useless things. I will be okay with the sightseeing, and the beach walking and the porch sitting and the dining out, and the yakking and the celebrating, because I’ve been there and done that, and I am here to tell you that it is all doable.

Nothing can ever be nearly as icky and challenging as when the rubber gloves absconded with the bandage and the whole shebang landed in the commode!

My life will be blessed with many such challenges, I am sure, but one learns to tie a knot and carry on! Or, in this case it wasn’t a knot exactly … but I guess it is better that you don’t know the details of how I made it work, just rest assured that it won’t happen again!


One of the first trips I made, once I could drive again, was to visit my local Public Library, where I used the Ladies Room to practice peeing in a public rest room.

I learned a lot that day, and the days that followed. Oh sure, I had practiced at home and worked out some of the logistics, like how to use my handbag with the top opened to hold all the supplies that are needed when I need to pee … the catheter, the lubricant, the gloves, and the bandage. I had them all packaged in a baggie, and had practiced how to open the package and do my thing when there is no countertop to hold all the kit and caboodle.

However, that day I learned that a lady’s room stall is pretty small, and any public restroom has about it a certain aura of haste … even if you are the only one there. However, that is all in your head … don’t let the situation hassle you.

Lesson #1 Take control of your perceptions.

I found this to be true of many aspects of my situation. I have learned over the past year that no one is really all that interested in what you are doing, where you are going, or how long you have been gone. They all have other fish to fry … my clothes might be sopping wet with leakage, or my tummy distended with fluid, but I am the only one who really notices. So, chill out and take your time … worry about something else.

 Lesson #2 First remove the covering from the stoma, then, and only then, don the gloves.

When using a public rest room, one needs to wear gloves to prevent contamination by god-knows-what lurking on all those surfaces. However, one day when it came time to remove the bandage covering my stoma, I learned … too late … that the bandage should be removed and set aside BEFORE putting on the gloves.  Those latex gloves became attached to the tape from the bandage, and would not be separated! That bandage glommed itself onto those gloves as if the end of the world was nigh, and they were the only ticket out of town. Guess I should have practiced at home with the gloves on.

Lesson #3 Always, always.always have two clean catheter packs with you.

It was a couple of weeks later, on a shopping trip with a client, that I realized after dropping the clean catheter in the toilet that it is best to have a back-up packet on hand. Luckily, in this instance it was a very clean bathroom and I was able to wash the catheter with soap and water, and use it safely. But that is not always going to be the case. Some of the places I have been … well … trust me, I never leave home without at least two packets in my purse and two more in my tote bag.

Lesson #4 Wrap the catheter in the glove.

I learned while on yet another outing, to wrap the catheter inside one of the gloves so as to keep it protected. That way, if the catheter slips from your hand, it will still be clean and protected inside the glove. Again, this was a lesson learned the hard way. Those rest room floors are really, really disgusting! And … oh yes, pack an extra pair of gloves as well.

Lesson #5 Wrap the gloves and catheter inside a paper towel.

On a subsequent journey, I learned to use the paper towel, when unfolded as a clean surface. Thus, I could hang my bag on the door hook of the stall, open it and use the paper towel as a soft surface to hold everything. Believe me when I tell you that all the necessary moving parts that are needed are hard to keep corralled while standing over a toilet holding a catheter with two hands. Sometimes there might be a baby changing table in the stall … those are the best. However, you still need a clean surface to work from. So, have a paper towel wrapped around the gloves holding the catheter. Good to know.

For longer days, when I plan to be gone for more than a few hours, I take 6 -8 catheter packs so that I can refresh the two in my purse after I have used them. And I always have a supply of spare packs in the emergency kitbag in my car. Traveling or driving any distance seems to aggravate the pouch, so there is no way I can predict how often I will need to use a rest room. My mamma didn’t raise no dummy … so I prepare as if I will need to pee every hour and am happy if I don’t need to go at all.

I started out using plastic reusable baggies to hold my supplies, and have graduated to little makeup bags that are decorative and look much more attractive inside my tote bag. Over time I have been able to pretty much hide any and all of the paraphernalia I carry with me. And oh yes, this summer I found a great tote bag that stands up and takes just about anything that I throw in it. Now it is time to find a fabulous bag for the fall.

So, for much of July and August, I got out and went about my regular business, going farther afield each time … testing my capacity for traveling. With each new venture, I found that my confidence in dealing with emergencies increased. At this stage, it meant I never passed up an opportunity to use a rest room … but, I say … go with whatever works.

Eventually I felt that I could make plans to visit my sister on Long Island. And when the time came to leave, I was pretty secure in my ability to make the trip.

Well, as it turns out, the stress of travel, or the jiggling of the car ride, or the sheer cussedness of the pouch caused it to go bonkers. I was pretty much leaking and draining myself and cleaning up every hour for the whole trip over.  I was really alarmed and a bit freaked out by this reaction.  But, after the initial shock, I abandoned any expectation of normalcy, learned to set my iPhone alarm to go off every 2 hours, and that way managed to keep ahead of it. By the time I left for home I had managed to gain some measure of control.

So … not much sleep, but still a good time, sitting and schmoozing with Nancy and her family, and friends. She is a great cook and welcomed any and all who stopped by to visit. It really was a great weekend. But lesson learned … not to worry … just pack a lot of supplies.

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