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Patient tips Seven tips for living with an intermittent catheter

Seven tips for living with an intermittent catheter

Jennifer B. was diagnosed with stage T2a bladder cancer at age 41. One of the most intimidating parts of her diagnosis and treatment plan included living with an intermittent catheter. Here, Jennifer shares tips she discovered through trial and error, frustration and laughter over time.

  1. Drink fluids. This one is tougher than I thought. Initially, I feared fluids because my neobladder doesn't exactly signal me like a "normal" bladder. I was afraid of incontinence and/or spending most of my day in the restroom. However, fluids help reduce blockage (neobladder mucus thins significantly), reduces harmful bacteria that cause bladder infections, helps relieve constipation and allows urine to flow with more pressure, which helps to empty more fully. Just remember to drink more throughout the day and reduce intake a few hours before bed.
  2. Stick to a schedule. This is especially important for a new neobladder and when healing from urinary tract infections. By keeping track of when you void, you can allow your neobladder to hold an appropriate amount of urine without overextending its size. Since neobladder patients don’t always feel the symptoms of a urinary tract infection, it’s also important to remember to void and clear out the accumulated bacteria. Your voiding schedule can lengthen with time. You’ll also recognize the signs your neobladder gives in warning you when it's time to urinate. Be patient and listen to your body. You will get there!
  3. Gather all catheter supplies before beginning. Having a shelf or basket in your bathroom filled with catheters, gynecological wipes, water-soluble lubricant (unless using a hydrophilic catheter) and hand sanitizer makes intermittent catheterization much easier. Assemble the same items in a cute makeup bag, sunglass case or pencil case to throw in your purse.
  4. Sit backward on the toilet and use a mirror with a handle. This tip was a lifesaver in the beginning (now, I can cath with my eyes closed)! Use the back of the toilet tank as a shelf for the items that you need. Place the handle of the mirror between the toilet seat and the back of the thigh in order to easily see the urethral opening. I also found it helpful to place a small hook next to the toilet for hanging the mirror so it's always there when I need it.
  5. Find the catheter that works best for you. The choices of catheters are overwhelming—length, flexibility, hydrophilic, urine bag attached, etc. Most medical supply companies will mail free sample packs upon request. Try them all and find what’s most comfortable for you! I often split my order between catheters I prefer for home use and little discrete ones I use when I'm out. Many medical supply companies also deliver other items such as bladder protection pads and gynecological wipes. Try their free samples first and always ask if they accept insurance!
  6. Look for a bathroom stall with a hook on the back of the door. Yes, this sounds like a little thing, but it can help a lot! It's invaluable to hang an open purse/bag to make your catheterization items readily accessible. It has made public restroom use much easier for me.
  7. It will get better. This new normal may seem very overwhelming at first, but like everything in life, practice makes it easier. I am being honest when I tell you I was filled with fear. I was angry and lost when it came to using a catheter. Today, I am a runner, a yoga teacher, a traveler and an intermittent catheter thriver. YOU’VE GOT THIS!
    Jennifer B
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