The freedom to pee
I can’t say that I ever thought much about the freedom to pee. Occasionally, on long hikes, I’ve wished that I were a guy so I could just turn towards the woods and let ‘er go, but that’s been about it, until recently.
I’ve now been diagnosed with CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) and although I’m in the earlier stages, I currently think about urinating way more than the average person does. For example, in the past month I had to do TWO 24-hour urine collection tests – one to assess general chemistry and volume and the other to analyze kidney stone composition.
Now here’s where the “freedom” part comes in. For this test, you’ve got to collect all of your urine, cleanly, and for a man that’s no big deal; he can pee into a bottle. But for a woman – don’t ask. There’s this little potty-like thing that fits over the toilet, but you’ve got to constantly be vigilant to make sure that urine is the only thing that goes in there.
Yeah. Agitation doesn’t begin to cover the feelings I experienced every time I had to go to the bathroom. And when I completed the first test, I then had to do the second one. I will never again take the joy of peeing freely for granted.
My CKD is the result of converging circumstances – a congenital kidney condition that remained undiscovered until now, and a rather large kidney stone that is blocking my ureter, and unfortunately has caused kidney damage. The good news is that I may regain some function after I have a procedure in the next few weeks to remove the stone.
So I’m optimistic, and am fortunately feeling no ill effects at the moment.
But I still have to think about peeing. As folks who’ve experienced kidney stones know, if you have a tendency to form them you have to drink lots and lots of water, which of course, makes you have to pee more. Now as you age, you have to go more anyway, which can be terribly inconvenient, especially in the middle of the night. One of my Adventures in Peeing occurred when I had to find the bathroom in my hotel room, in the dark, and ended up falling into my suitcase.
And I am so tired of having to provide urine samples to doctors and lab technicians. I tend to have a “shy bladder” anyway, which means that sometimes I can have difficulty peeing in a public restroom or on command.
Granted, this is not a life-threatening condition and probably will not develop into one. But it still changes your perspective. Along with the peeing issues, it’s my first brush with mortality. Being told that your kidney function is just 60% of normal does make you think.
My guiding star here is the attitude of my dad, who had a major heart attack at age 59, and lived for 20 more years with only one quarter of his heart operational. I remember him saying to me, “Sunny, people ask me how I can live such a full life, knowing what happened to me and how limited my heart function is. I’ve had a defibrillator implanted and my heart’s stopped working three times so far. But you know what I tell them? I don’t think of myself as sick. I don’t waste any time worrying about it. I do what the doctors tell me and just keep going.”
And that’s now my philosophy. I always think of life as a gift anyway. I feel fortunate that I have a very proactive doctor who caught the changes in my blood panels. I have a good renal specialist and now a urologist, whom I have a lot of confidence in, despite him telling me that the internal laser blasts on my kidney stone will be the equivalent of going at it with a jackhammer for 1 and ½ hours. Lovely.
But I’m OK. The only peeing issue that I will have left to deal with, after the procedure, is related to a stent that will be put in for two weeks to manage the swelling. The doctor tells me that I will feel like I need to pee every 30 minutes.
At least I won’t have to go in the potty.