This just in (in 2012): public urination may be okay, as long as nobody sees. Well, I say that, but actually this BBC article discussing the issue goes on to outline how broadly unacceptable it really is (even if nobody can see you). In fact, the managing director of the British Toilet Association (yup, that’s a thing), supports Glastonbury’s “zero-tolerance stance” towards relieving yourself in the great outdoors. A warning for all you festival goers: wee outside and risk getting kicked out.
But I digress. I’m not actually overly concerned about calls of nature during festivals. I’ve always been a just-suck-it-up-and-queue kind of girl. So why the interest? Sit back and enjoy the tale of how another little piece of my dignity was stripped away…
As you know, due to over-enthusiastic wee retention skills, I left hospital with a catheter. A couple of days later, my boyfriend and I had to go for an initial appointment at the Assisted Conception Unit in Kingston Hospital. This was the appointment recommended by my CNS and consultant before they knew whether the trachelectomy could go ahead, but it was still necessary to keep it in case I had to have further treatment which might affect my fertility (i.e. chemoradiotherapy).
When the appointment was made, I’d thought that nearly two weeks after surgery I would be reasonably mobile and well on the road to recovery. It turned out to be a touch over-ambitious. However, it wouldn’t do to cancel, so I donned a pair of lounge pants – the H&M ones with the looser thigh area – and off we went.
For those of you not so familiar with a take-away catheter situation, you go home equipped with a day bag and a night bag. The day bag (or leg bag) is fairly small, about 500ml I think. It attaches to the catheter via a short tube, then straps around your thigh using two stretchy, rubber-backed strips. You empty it by releasing a valve poking out of the bottom of the bag.
Before leaving the house, I made sure to drain the bag in preparation. Kingston Hospital is only a 15-20 minute drive away, and though sitting in the car was uncomfortable, it was certainly manageable. The trouble began when we reached the hospital. The appointment was in the early afternoon so, surprise surprise, the car park was chock-a-block. We did a few hopeful circuits before admitting defeat and looking elsewhere. Blood pressure rising, it turned out that there was nowhere very near that we could leave the car. Norbiton Station came to our rescue in the end – a little tip for anyone in a similar bind! It’s got a few pay and display bays not too far from the hospital if you cut through the back.
By this point I was already exhausted, we hadn’t even got into the hospital yet and to top it all we were in danger of being late. I HATE being late, and obviously being late for a medical appointment is especially uncool. We started to shuffle/rush in the direction of the relevant building.
Disaster! All of a sudden, I felt an uncomfortable tugging in my nether regions, accompanied by a toasty warmness on my upper right thigh. A quick pat confirmed my suspicions; the stupid leg bag was full. We were still a good 5 minute limp from a toilet. It’s not so much that time was of the essence, but the stretchy straps aren’t designed to hold much weight and gravity was starting to do its thing.
“Can’t you just empty it into a drain?” my boyfriend asked.
Hmmm… Technically, yes. And the BBC article confirms that even the BTA “accepts that allowances should be made when it comes to the elderly and those with medical complaints.” However, the reality was that I would have had to pull my lounge pants down to my knees to get at the valve, as pulling up from the bottom wasn’t possible. Even if I wouldn’t actually have to perform a public Number 1 as such, I still thought that pulling my trousers down in the middle of Kingston at 3pm on a Wednesday was not something I cared to cross off my bucket list. But I DID think about it. Quite hard. To pee or not to pee… That really was the question. Talk about a sea of troubles.
I opted instead for “the clutch”. That is, I grabbed the top of the bag from the outside of my trousers to take the weight and then sort of waddled as fast as possible towards the ACU. There was definitely staring. Lots of staring. I didn’t care.
There can’t have been many times in my life when I’ve been more pleased to reach a toilet. It was odd though, as emptying the bag obviously doesn’t give any feeling of physical relief, something you’d usually associate with being that desperate to find the little girls’ room.
It didn’t quite end there. Whilst washing my hands I knocked the tap, causing it to spray all over my crotch area. So I left the loo looking like I’d wet myself. Once upon a time, that would have been embarrassing.
Caroline Crimson x