The Truth About Catheterizing

I’m no expert. I’m not a urologist. I’m not a doctor of any kind actually. I have not been cathing for an extremely long time as some men I’ve met have been forced to do. But I am one of the few people who are foolish enough willing to talk openly and freely about the reality of what it means to self-catheterize multiple times a day with no end in sight. These are must my own personal observations, but they just might provide some courage for others who are put in this situation and they also will provide some measure of insight for others who may be voyeuristically interested. So here, without further adieu, are some of my own thoughts, struggles, opinions, and experiences with regard to all this mess of urination:

  • It’s ALMOST all mental— The pain and anguish associated with cathing is really and truly almost all mental. Up until the last week or two it still psyched my mind out to even think about doing the deed even though while actually catheterizing it was no longer that big of deal. In other words, the idea was and is always worse than the reality. It sounds terrible. It sounds terrifying. It sounds like the worst. But it’s not, it just really isn’t.
  • It’s NOT All Mental— Ok ok, while most of it is mental, it does hurt. I just feel like this piece doesn’t really need to be said. I feel like this piece is obvious and offers no new insight. It doesn’t feel good to stick about nine inches of tubing into ANY part of your body let alone something so private and protected. I don’t believe anything more here needs to be said, but it does belong on the list.
  • UTI’s Are No Fun— Bladder infections complicate everything. I believe that for a majority of the time I’ve been cathing (maybe all of it) I’ve had an infection. When the UTI is raging it makes cathing so so much worse (pretty much I’m referring to straight up pain and bleeding here). So do your best to keep as clean an environment as possible when cathing. Wash your hands lots when you’re getting ready to do it, wear gloves, sanitize, do whatever you’ve gotta do to be clean and to not allow extra bacteria to follow that tube down into the depths of your organs!
  • Know Your Tubing— There are different sized tubes, there are different types of tips to them, there are different levels of rigidness to the tubes, and there are tubes for different purposes. It’s valuable to know not only which kind you prefer but also what each type offers you. The smaller the tube the easier and less painful it is with the trade off being that it takes a whole lot longer to empty ’cause it comes out so much slower. The more rigid the tube the easier (I think) it is to push past the prostate (that’s the painful part) but it is, clearly, more rigid and thus a little more rough if you ask me. Anyway, you’ll learn which types you prefer OR you’ll live off samples like me learn to cath with whatever people give you! In the hospital, for example, they didn’t seem to know what they were doing so even after repeated correction they gave me a Foley catheter (the semi-permanent type that have deflated balloons spots at the end) that I eventually went ahead and used. It hurt a bit more. But I succeeded. Give me a lead pipe and I’m pretty sure I can figure it out.
  • Twist— A little tip: if you’re using a straight cath with no coude tip (a slightly upturned tip at the end) try twisting it while you insert it. It seems to work lots better. Just an idea.
  • Lidocaine is a Joke— Many people prefer to use numbing gel before cathing. And you can if you want…but…well, it only numbs the part that doesn’t really hurt at all. The most painful part is pushing past the prostate and ain’t no gel getting that deep in. If it makes you feel better emotionally…cool. But it doesn’t really do anything for you so I’d save your money for other things if I were you.
  • Relax— Part of what made it more painful early on (besides the raging UTI) was my stress level. My body would be tense and rigid, my breathing was intense and labored, and I did not have a relaxed demeanor whatsoever. Finding ways to relax your body is going to make it so much easier and less painful. Play some music, do some deep breathing, etc. do what you’ve got to do to chill and give your body a chance to play its part peacefully.
  • It’s All About Control— The reality is that self-catheterizing gives you control back. I don’t know what your context is (if you’re one of the people reading this and cathing) but for my situation the option to straight cath myself gave me back a measure of control when compared to having a more permanent bag strapped to my leg. As I’m learning to master this thing (and, no, I don’t think I have yet) I’m realizing that it’s giving me back a measure of control over my body and what I can or cannot do. This is a good thing (even if it is just an illusion) when due to sickness everything is feeling horribly out of control.
  • Catheterizing Robs Control— Ok, so to totally disagree with what I just said…this has been a really hard transition. Discovering that my bladder no longer worked was incredibly symbolic to me for how out of control my life/body had become. I no longer had anything to hold onto: I can’t even pee like a normal person anymore! What do I have left? Being forced into cathing really reminded me that I’ve got no control in my life left. I’m at the whims of my disease. This was a painful reality. Very painful. Very painful and very much something that deserves to be grieved. Not only is it ok to be incredibly sad if you have to cath regularly and for an unforeseen period of time but I think it’s ok to be mad about it too. This stuff sucks and it’s unnatural and it hurts and even if it’s manageable it’s not something you ever wanted to say that you had learned to manage! So, yes, you can do this AND yes, it sucks to have to do this.
  • Don’t Stop Moving— Another random and important tip: don’t ever stop moving. When you’re inserting the tube don’t stop inching forward. Ever. Even if you’re only moving ever so slightly, a millimeter at a time, don’t stop or hesitate for a second. ‘Cause it gets to a point where you question whether you should pause or back out and start again. Both are bad ideas. If you always inch forward then by the time you’ve thought through “should I stop or back out” you’ve most likely already past the small part that hurts bad and have entered into the spot that doesn’t hurt so bad. So trust me, don’t ever stop or pause. Just keep movin’.
  • Keep it at Home— If you’ve got the choice or if you can schedule it accordingly it is ALWAYS so much easier and better if you can do your business at home! Man does it get more difficult on the road! Regarding cleanliness and ease it is just so so so much better if you can keep it all in the house. Sometimes this isn’t a choice, but it’s definitely worth you thinking through your schedule (both your calendar and your urination routine) to see if you can be proactive in only cathing at home. Good luck!
  • Don’t Blog or Talk About it— ‘Cause that’s just gross. Keep potty talk around the potty please. I mean, seriously, who talks about this stuff in public? And who in their right mind talks about this stuff for the entire world and any stranger in it to read? Bad, bad, bad idea…and a little gross if you ask me (which you didn’t)

I’m sure there’s more to be said, more that should have been said, more that I could’ve said. There’s always more. My hope here wasn’t just to lose a few readers while popping up on a few new and strange Google searches. Instead my hope really was to bring some awareness to something that people just don’t talk about. I realize that in many ways this is a very private topic, and I did my best to respect that in my brief discourse, and I realize that private things often deserve a private setting to be talked about…but…well, I don’t have a great rebuttal to that aside from saying that I’m not always against taking the private and making it public.

Enjoy (but not too much ’cause that would enter into creepersville and that’s not the type of blog I’m trying to write here!)

Our Dating Story

Don’t tell anyone (as if its not already clear) but Jess and I are hardcore nerds. Yes, that’s right, we both grew up homeschooled. I even grew up a preachers kid. As teenagers when we were doing the Running Start program at our local community college (where high school students take college classes) my dad would drop us both off either in a church van or in a beater truck that was painted like a solar system. I didn’t get my licensee until I was seventeen. Jess didn’t wear jeans to church until she was like thirteen. I could attempt to convince you more, but I don’t see the point. My guess is that you’re already convinced…and, oh, how I’ve just begun.

Neither of us dated much. Jess had one boy friend that could be considered legit. I technically dated two girls before Jess…I think I may have held their hands once. Lets just say it never got hot and heavy and there wasn’t much depth to the ‘relationships’!

Essentially we are both of our first loves. As an eight year old Jess journaled about me as her “hunk”. I think early on had I journaled about her it would have been as my “best friends annoying little sister”. But oh how things change!

We fell in like over my last few years of high school. Jess’ brother moved away and I (relationally) moved in. I started to see this girl for who she was, not as a little sister but as a genuine hottie. Jess claims she always knew that I was a hottie and was just biding her time. As is the case for most of you, I’m certain, your first venture into sharing your love for your new bff was via email. Right? Isn’t that how guys and girls do it these days? So I wrote Jess an email proclaiming my love for her in not so many words. Over time we decided that there would be no reason to date unless we were going to get married (remember, we’re still acne riddled fifteen/sixteen year olds right now). So what did we do? We talked to our parents of course!

“Mom, dad, I really like Jessica and I was wondering if you thought she was someone that I might one day marry?”




“We were thinking about dating but we didn’t want to do it unless it might one day lead to marriage. And we wanted our parents approval and advice”




(I’m sure my parents said something but it was the verbal equivalent to…crickets…which could probably be translated as “my son is effing nuts. What is he talking about and why is my nerdy little boy talking about getting married? Maybe the kid should get his drivers license first!”)

Jess did the same thing with her parents and received about the same type of response. I don’t remember chronologically how things happened next, but it was on January 1 of Y2K that we started officially dating.

Our first kiss was at Scarpelli Hall. What is Scarpelli Hall? Well it’s only one of Clark Community Colleges buildings with one of the nicest waiting rooms on campus! Plush blue chairs, little to no privacy, pop machine, foot traffic. What more could a boy ask for? And remember this: I’ve never kissed a girl before in my life (mom, sisters, aunts–you don’t count). I think the scene went a little something like this:

Me: Hey Jess I’d really like to kiss you. I’ve never kissed a girl before and I think that I deserve to finally do so. I’m kind of a dweeb and I don’t really know how to…


Jess: quietly sings ‘hush little baby don’t say a word…”


Me: (I begin my pucker about ten inches away from any known face in the region and slowly move in)


Jess: (She quickly cuts the distance between my long pucker and her mouth by kissing me in a more appropriate fashion)


Me: (in shock and surprise I receive a real kiss.)


Some kid from some unknown science class lights off sparklers and dances around us as another student lights off some mortars in the background to celebrate my first kiss and, more importantly, OUR first kiss.*

So we started dating in January and it was in July that I moved to Lubbock, TX and eventually Lisbon, Portugal. For two years we did the long distance thing. Jess spent lots on phone cards (lots!). I spent lots of time charging my phone. We wrote letters, we made each other videos. We made lots of gifts. From pillows with my smell on it, to ugly shirts with my face. From her sending my whole Lubbock class (about fifty of us) home made cookies and gifts to her sending me specially made journals to write her back in. We did the long distance thing well. All the while, however, knowing that it was a long shot that it’d last. We tried to break up numerous times but it just never worked. We just couldn’t do it. We knew we were made for each other.

There was no one else like Jess. Seriously. I traveled the world, I sailed on the Greek Mediterranean seas only to discover that the only woman for me, the only woman who would do, the only woman who had ever capture my heart was the woman waiting for me back in the ‘Couve. Loving long distance was miserable but probably the best thing that ever could have happened for the two of us. It forced us to get to know each other in ways that we never could have experienced otherwise. We talked. And talked. A lot. What more do you have over an ocean than to talk or sing to each other? (yes, that’s right, she made me sing to her sometimes)

When I finally moved back things had changed. Jess was funnier than she had ever been before.** She was more confident as a person, more sure of who she was, and she was funnier (did I say that already?). She had new friends, she was more beautiful than before, and–oh, and I was different too. It took some adjustments but by September it was clear that we were still in this together and that the awkward request we put to our parents some three years prior was still right on. We were gonna get married. And so on the day before her October 4th birthday I surprised her and offered her a ring. And come June of the following year we tied the knott.

And we’ve never ever looked back.


* I may have embellished some of this portion of the story.

** Some would argue that she was always funny and that I only now realized or gave her credit for it. But only SOME say that.

Awkward: Video Blog 8-1-12

Ok this is a very random, very awkward, very…something video entry today. Enjoy if you’re able!

Why I’m a Little Confused

It makes me laugh even as it regularly confuses me. You see, I fall asleep constantly. For example, as I watched the new Batman movie the night before last night I fell asleep at least six times throughout the epic film (while watching it on one of the largest screens known to mankind). I can fall asleep at any given moment in any context. It’s been amusing to be sitting on the front row of a venue where I’m about to speak only to find myself fighting to stay awake! Shouldn’t I be nervously alert and wide awake at those moments? How about while I’m getting pushed around a grocery store in a wheelchair? How about as i’m in a conversation with my wife about important things?! Don’t worry, though, Jess doesn’t take it personally, she realizes that it’s a combo of pure exhaustion, medications, and actual sickness. She knows she’s not boring (clearly she’s not boring!).

I just. I just fall asleep. Everywhere. Anywhere. All the time. Right now….

Here’s the funny part though, because I live in a constant sleep/awake state and because the sleep that occurs is instantaneously a very deep deep sleep–I often am unaware of what is real and what has been a dream. No joke. No exaggeration.

Just last night I commented to my mom about how many weeds had popped up in our front yard overnight! I mean, seriously, it had turned in a virtual weed-locked mess out there…oh, wait, nope…yeah, that was a dream wasn’t it? Crap. Never mind mom.

Or the other day I told Jess about seeing Southwest Washington’s famous Dave at the oncology clinic. I started to tell her about it and then we both laughed ’cause we both quickly realized that it was a dream. Ha, Dave doesn’t go to my oncology clinic! Silly Ryan is getting dreams and reality mixed up again…until we were there a few days later and there was Dave at my oncology clinic! Turns out this one wasn’t a dream! How’s a boy to know?!

Over and over again I start sentences and stories with Jess only to realize that they never really happened. To be honest it’s often a little disappointing ’cause they’re usually interesting things to talk about. I wish I were crazy enough to get confused about big awesome things like aliens coming to earth or apple pies growing in our garden or Cheez-its coming out with a new flavor, or something fantastic like that. But, no, it’s usually more connected to a new stretch mark that turned green or our car getting dented or or our towels all getting bleached or…or something simple like that. But it’s still just the weirdest and strangest thing to live in this mystery of what is real and what isn’t. It’s a bit disconcerting but honestly more awesome than anything else. It’s a power that I’m glad my wife doesn’t abuse (could you imagine the power she could wield over me?!)–Actually, hmm, what if she were to constantly play it up? What if she always threw fake things out there to mess with me? I’d be a mess…a hilariously confused mess! Hmm…this gives me an idea. A gift. A gift I could bequeath to my wife right here, right now, forevermore….

Here’s the official deal:

if I ever get to that place where I’m clearly dying soon and I’m practically in a  veggitized state I hereby give my wife permission to confuse me with my own ‘dreams’. Hear ye hear ye let this officially be known: Jessica Woods has my permission to do such dastardly deeds without the social ramifications of being considered a jerk in any way whatsoever. This will allow Ryan in his last days to still be a part of something fun and amusing–to which he will be forever grateful. Let it be so.


Yours Truly,

Ryan Woods

Please Don’t Hate Me: Video Blog 7-16-12

So this is my first venture into video blogging–something that I’m going to try to do more often. Some feedback may be valuable for both you and I…though in no way am I truly going for high quality video as much as I’m shooting for functional quality matched with a standard of “good enough” content.

The bulk of this video is centered around Tuesday’s (July 17th) fundraiser at Kiggins Theater in downtown Vancouver. It should be a killer night with great music, great drinks, great raffles (no, seriously), an amazing silent auction, and tons of other great stuff. Please come down not only to support our family but to support the continuation of a movement as this fundraiser is no longer just about our family but about  a 501c3 that is dedicated to the type of movement that Jess and I are passionate about: to see a grassroots movement of people finding life in an amongst our downtown ‘Couve neighborhoods!

You can also view it here:

(also, can I say that at this point in time, I find it really amusing to see the videos that are being connected to this video on my google sidebar! It’s like a bunch of teenage girls talking about dating or something! I haven’t actually watched them…but they look awkward…and very unconnected to my content…and…awkward. Here’s hoping it changes at some point! Ha!)