Together, nothing is insurmountable

Ali, a nurse and intermittent-catheter user, explains why it’s good to talk and laugh, and how we could all do with being a little more …viking

Vikings don’t often come up in conversations about intermittent catheterization. But then no two users’ stories are the same. Ali’s story, though, is one that will hold similarities for many people – finding sources of strength to help get you through tough times. And that’s where Vikings come in. Or, more specifically, Shield Maidens – female Viking legends who fought side-by-side with men. “I definitely draw strength from them,” Ali says. “That they were so strong, so heroic, and never gave up.” Ali has a Shield Maiden tattoo on her right arm, with symbols of all the things that give her courage – love, strength, health, wellbeing, family, and strong values. “I like the analogy and how it makes me feel. I am a Shield Maiden and no matter what, I will still get up fighting. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it.

Laughing is another source of strength. “You can get through anything with humor. It doesn’t matter how dark days can get, if you can have a laugh about something with your best mate then you know things could always be worse.

It was at a particularly low moment that marked a turning point for Ali. “I’d had a bad day; I’d been struggling with so many recurrent UTIs and was fed up. I was talking to someone on the phone to order more catheters, and I just said ‘I can’t do this anymore’. Even the Shield Maiden wasn’t coming out that day.” The woman on the phone arranged for a nurse to call Ali.

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“It was so nice to talk to someone. Real people talking about real feelings – not about the stuff in textbooks. We just had a chat.”

Ali also learned about GentleCath™ Glide, her current catheter. “It just seemed a lot kinder, more friendly, and not like the coated catheters I’d been using.” “It was a real fluke that I found out about it, but I really needed a change. I just wanted to stop having to fight recurrent infections,” she says.

Worryingly, Ali’s regular UTIs had included infections with drug-resistant bugs that meant she needed treatment in hospital. “Anything I could use that could decrease the risk of recurrent infection was a winner. Constantly fighting infections has an impact on your physical health, and it can really affect you mentally.” As a former nurse, a widespread lack of emotional support for people who use intermittent catheters is something that troubles Ali. “You’re discharged, given the info about physical care, but there’s little psychological support. You’re often just left on your own.

In her own journey, Ali’s found it important to find places where she can talk to people experiencing similar problems. “Lots of women have to use catheters for various reasons – traffic accidents, childbirth, cancers, gynaecological issues – and even if not, most women have experienced issues with recurrent UTIs and incontinence – but we don’t talk about. It’s hidden. The only way to start normalizing it is to start having those conversations...” Ali’s advice to other people? "Adjusting to life cathing is not always going to be easy, but with the right information and support network," she says, "it doesn’t have to be a battle."

"Whether it’s your partner or your friends, learn to trust each other. Together nothing is insurmountable, even if it can feel like it sometimes. Just keep going and help each other be Shield Maidens.

Adjusting to cathing can be tough, with a range of practical, physical and emotional challenges. You don’t have to figure it out alone. Call and talk to a member of the me+ support team today. Call 1-800-422-8811 (M-F, 8:30 AM-7:00 PM ET).