Sometimes going backward is the path forward. After a prostatectomy, most men live with urinary incontinence. After regaining urinary control, I still leaked if I had to bend, sneeze, laugh, cough or lift anything heavy.
I’ll never forget how happy I was when I graduated from diapers to pads. At the time, I believed I’d easily adjust to using a single pad for the entire day. It wasn’t the first or last time I’ve said things to myself that turned out to be wrong.
With the benefit of hindsight, I never believed I’d be living with a pad for the rest of my life. I thought pads were one more temporary phase leading me toward regaining total control and a pad-free life. I spent 18 months living with pads, and I experienced my share of discouraging days.
The first day I ventured to work without a pad was a memorable one. I went to the bathroom before leaving the house, as I didn’t want anything to go wrong during my five-minute commute to work. I made it to the parking lot, opened my door, and stepped out of my car. Then I suddenly sneezed. Immediately I felt a surge of moisture in my underwear.
I walked directly from the parking lot to the bathroom to inspect the damage. Sure enough, there was a wet spot in my underwear. I’d just received the results of my experiment.
When I left for work that day, I wanted to see how long I could go without leaking. I discovered I couldn’t stay dry long enough to make into the building where I worked. That certainly was not the answer I hoped for.
As I processed the results of my experiment and their implications for my life, I was pleasantly surprised at my reaction. In the bathroom, looking at the wet spot on my underwear, I began to laugh out loud. The idea that I couldn’t stay dry long enough to take one step into the building struck me as outrageously hilarious. Then I experienced a wave of relief.
This was the first time in my life, I’d laughed about losing urinary control and wetting my underwear. My ability to laugh at this circumstance brought about an amazing psychological healing.
Ironically, as I wrote this last paragraph I experienced déjà vu. Currently, I’m dealing with bronchitis, which means I’m coughing a lot. While writing the last paragraph, I coughed and leaked urine on my pajamas.
Since I wasn’t wearing a pad, there is a familiar wet spot in my pajamas. I did it again! Once again, I laughed. This time it was a double laugh: I laughed at the memory of being in the bathroom, and I laughed that I’d done it again.
When I began my vacation in Florida, I didn’t pack pads because I haven’t needed them in a long time. After I came down with bronchitis, my wet pants made it clear that I needed them again. So, my wife and I headed to a drugstore to buy a box of pads.
During the drive, I was struck by the difference in my attitude and behavior. I used to be so ashamed to buy diapers or pads that I avoided stores. I would order them online in the privacy of my own home. Not anymore.
This time my wife went with me. Once there, we picked up boxes and, in the aisle, discussed the best prices and effectiveness of each brand.
At the register, I was proud to present a 25% discount coupon. But the clerk refused to apply the discount, claiming the offer was valid only for feminine hygiene products. The coupon made no such distinction, so I complained. It’s still difficult for me to believe that a guy who used to be too ashamed to buy pads in public was now complaining to a store manager about a discount.
I’ve come a long way. I’m proud to be a cancer survivor. I consider these temporary setbacks as war injuries from my battle with cancer. My journey back in time, when laughter eliminated the power of shame, enabled me to move forward with humor and courage.
Have you ever taken a trip backward in order to move forward?
This was reprinted with the permission of Prostate Cancer News Today