Social Life

If you’re a cath user, that needn’t tie you to your home, unless you have literally tied the catheters in a giant chain that somehow shackles you to your radiator. In which case, that’s a bit strange. Hey, good news about those flexible plastic tubes: they are indeed flexible. You can take them anywhere. So let’s.

Let’s say you’re invited down the pub. If you’re not a drinker, replace ‘pub’ with ‘café’, or if you’re reading this in a country other than Britain, replace ‘pub’ with ‘bar’ or ‘bowling alley’ or wherever else you hang with your amigos.

Plans before pints

If you’re new to catheterising (or to going out), the best thing is to plan ahead. That can range from ensuring you bring enough caths, to second-guessing if you might go on to one of those hip nightclubs the kids go to nowadays. And good luck if you’re going on a bar crawl – in which case, time your bathroom breaks with extra care. But doesn’t everyone?

If your social appointment is far-flung, that may mean some extra planning. I live in the Surrey town of Guildford, a mere 35mins from London Waterloo train station… but the last train home is the slow train, that takes an hour. With no toilets on board. And I’ve just had several beers. By the time we’ve stopped at every minor station from Cobham & Stoke d’Abernon to Effingham Junction, I’m starting to find the junctions are almost literally taking the pee (if I’m quick when the doors are open).

You can choose your friends…

Typically one or two of my ale-supping chums might know of my urological history. They know I might take a minute or two longer in the bathroom (handy to dodge getting a round in). Some pals will never want to talk about such an icky area, while others may like to rib you for it. That’s okay. Some pub pals might react this way, so don’t take it personally – it’s their way of showing they care/like to roast you whenever possible. (At my wedding, my best man told in his speech of how I’d lucked out, since my bride was a friend, a nurse and a psychologist, and I badly needed all three. How true.)

Some folks with my unusual condition inform everyone they come into contact with, in case it helps oncoming social situations. I take the other route: it’s a need-to-know basis. But that means that some do need to know. Don’t go hiding it away from all – just choose the chums who you’ll see more of, or if you meet someone with a medical background, they’re quite good allies too. Boozy Dave? Nah, he’s not bothered.

A swift half… or several swift halves

If you’re a-drinking, you may be wise to check how much you’re consuming. That’s true for all of course, and I’m not trying to cramp your style here, dude. You go party. Just, you know, what goes in has to come out. In my thirty years of self-catheterizing (well I’ve not spent all that time in the toilet), even at peak drunkenness, I’ve been able to catheterize. But it does get trickier. And if you’re having a big ol’ boozy session and pass out, no cath is going anywhere. In fact, if you go so far that your friends have to carry you home, make sure they bring your bag if you’ve got one. Plus of course none of this can be brilliant for your kidneys. But I’m not your mum. You have fun. Just don’t have too many Jägerbombs.

I’m queuing for the, erm…

Pick your bathroom. Standard gents/ladies, or disabled? If a disabled bathroom, you might need one of those special keys, or get one from behind the bar (but then you have to ask for it, in a loud pub). I sent off for one – you can do that easily enough – only it turns out they’re surprisingly heavy and certainly don’t fit on a standard keyring, so it stays at home. Which is frankly useless, because I don’t need a key for my home lavatory. That would be odd.

On the previous blog post, I mentioned the dilemma of using disabled toilets over the gents/ladies. More space versus funny looks if you’re not in a wheelchair… But then again the gents or ladies may have long lines.

Here’s a quirk of mine. I do stand-up comedy, so I work evenings. Sometimes I’ve come offstage, interval time, and gone to use the only toilet in the building, which I then share with the audience. If there’s only one toilet stall, I’m in it, taking my time as usual – and hearing conversations outside the stalls along the lines of: “He’s taking his time… Hurry up, second half’s about to begin… That first comedian was rubbish…” (That was me). It’s been unfortunate, and a hurried commute from stall to washbasin as I face my impatient, unappreciative audience.

If the bathroom where you are has only one stall, and you know you’re keeping people waiting – don’t be tempted to rush. Let ‘em wait. If they cause a fuss afterwards, wave a catheter in their face (see previous blog).

Nightclub toilets? Well they’re a different ballgame. You might have some enterprising toilet attendant with lollies and spray in exchange for tips – just another irritation when you’re trying to dispose of a cath, or take your time in a bathroom. Just know they’ve seen all sorts, and if they think you’re taking your time in the stall because you’re doing drugs, just tell them it’s a crazy new drug called a ‘catheter’, which gives you this amazing ‘emptiness’ sensation in your bladder…

Bags v Pockets

You’ll have caths on you then, somehow. Some bring ‘em in a bag. Ladies are blessed with handbags; gents may need to improvise. Man-bags have never quite caught on, so some opt for a small rucksack, or the American tourist may sport a bum-bag (or fanny pack, yes, I know). Or if you just use caths and not gel or other paraphernalia, pockets may suffice. As I mentioned in blog #1, I fit a cath in a money belt, so I always have one around my waist at all times (plus an emergency tenner – handy for our night out). I wouldn’t want to keep them in a coat pocket and leave the coat somewhere, leaving me high and, well, not necessarily dry.

If you have a rucksack, don’t do what I did literally yesterday. I had six or seven caths in the back zip pocket of the rucksack. I got home to find I’d left it unzipped, and now had only one left. Aside from it being a waste, it also meant I’d unwittingly left a Hansel-and-Gretel-like trail of catheters behind me as I’d walked… Whoops. Ah well. At least my friends can find me.

The opinions expressed here are of a personal and anecdotal nature, and are in no way a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult your doctor or nurse if you have any questions.

Adjusting to cathing can be tough, with a range of practical, physical and emotional challenges. You don’t have to figure it out alone. Call and talk to a member of the support team today, on 010 880 3833.