Hello Fellow Adventurers!
Getting ready for any trip or adventure begins with planning and preparation. Preparing for this motorcycle adventure isn’t just checking my tires and brakes. It’s not just making sure I pack flip flops for Key West. It really comes down to my health. When I rode my bicycle from Anchorage to Cabo, my strength and endurance was even more important, but this motorcycle trip has it’s own challenges – which are health related. I’m going to address something that most guys don’t talk about. Why is that? Because we’re raised to suck it up, be tough, don’t cry and don’t show our vulnerabilities. That’s pretty sad when you think about it, but it comes with the package.
I have to give credit to women who do discuss their health issues between each other. They become more informed and proactive because of their communication. Maybe it’s only the guys I know, but I think that we, as men, don’t talk about our health challenges and tend to only go to see a doctor when we’re not getting any better and think we’re going to die. There are plenty of jokes about men dying first. The one that comes to my mind is that men think it’s the only way to get relief from a nagging wife. lol. In all seriousness, whether male or female, our health is all we really have. Without it, we have nothing. Here’s a good article on this topic… “Why do men die earlier?”
When I finished my bicycle ride two years ago www.AKtoCabo.com, I started experiencing a slow flow when urinating. I haven’t said anything about this to most of the people I know. I thought this was something I brought upon myself. I thought it was a result of all the times I didn’t stop to take a leak when driving far, that Stagecoach concert which involved drinking all day and then having to get in a 150 person outhouse line, and/or from sitting on a bicycle seat for 3 months as I rode south from Alaska. Yeah, in my mind I brought this upon myself.
About a year ago I was experiencing a lot of pain and finally scheduled an appointment to see my doctor. As some of you know, just getting an appointment can be a hassle. By the time I saw my primary care doctor and then meeting with a Urologist, I was in serious pain. As trained through life, I sucked it up and didn’t talk to anyone about my problem. It turned out that my bladder was three times the size it should be. The average male bladder is 300-500 cubic centimeters. To give you perspective, a regular 16.9oz. water bottle is 500ccs. My bladder was 1465ccs. Not good.
On the upside, I started learning more about my body. I had to wear a catheter on and off for a few months to allow my bladder to shrink to a normal size. It was very inconvenient, but my biggest concerns were if I’d be able to do another bike touring adventure and if I’d be able to have sex again. Yeah, I’m a guy.
As I said, I started to learn more about my body at that time. I learned that this wasn’t something I brought upon myself. I learned that 40% of men over 50 and 80% of men over 70 have an enlarged prostate. I learned that the odds are against us, that this is pretty common for many of the seasoned guys out there. Prior to going through this ordeal, I had no idea of how everything worked down there. As long as I could get it up, all was good. Guys are pretty simple that way.
Basically, an enlarged prostate prevents a man from draining his bladder. If a man can’t drain his bladder, the urine can back up into his kidneys, shut them down and kill him. Personally, I have found a lot of this to be fascinating. It’s amazing to see how everything works together perfectly – most of the time. In my case, after my bladder shrunk to a normal size and I still wasn’t draining completely, the Doc gave me two options… 1) a type of catheter implant that exited on my lower stomach with a valve at the end to open and close, or 2) self-catheterizing. My Urologist brought up “self-cathing” in a previous visit, but even though we as men are raised to suck it up, I had issues with having to stick a 16″ tube inside of myself many times every day. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it – until it became one of two choices and I didn’t want a permanent drain other than the one God gave me. I got over it. I’ve been “self-cathing” for about 6 months, averaging 6 times per day.
Let’s get back to important things like a motorcycle adventure around the country. .. This idea came to me with the travel restrictions we’re experiencing. The problem for me was having to carry enough catheters for the trip. Let’s say I end up riding for a month and a half, that means I’ll have to carry enough for 6 per day. 6×45=270. A box of 50 is about 18″ long, 4″ wide, 4″ high. That means I’d have to carry 6 boxes, taking up an area of 18″x12″x8″! It’s not like I’ll have empty space in the backseat or trunk of my car. There had to be another option, so I made another Urology appointment about a month ago and learned about an optional procedure.
Last Wednesday, I went under the knife. There were a few complications like my blood pressure falling through the floor 4 times, continuous internal bleeding and blood clotting in my bladder that resulted in me going to the emergency room three times and ICU only once. Yesterday was my follow up appointment and everything checked out well. Today is the first day I have felt somewhat normal, although some people would say I’m always just “somewhat” normal.
My point to all of this, is we as men, need to NOT suck it up and NOT wait until we’re dying until we visit our doctors. There are options – but the longer we wait, the fewer the options become. Honestly, I previously thought that an option like the one I decided on could leave me impotent. I thought about how I’d feel if I could never make love to a woman again. I questioned my definition of what a man is and who I am. The good news is everything works and I can’t wait to try out my new/old toy!
Take care of yourselves my friends. And if you’re female, keep nagging that man in your life until you wear him down for his own good. Odds are, he needs you to look after him, so he can worry about important things like the tires and brakes on his toys. We’re simple that way.
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