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Finding Humor in Trying Times

Real Women, Real Stories

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By Sylvia L. Ramsey

Training my new bladder began after the stitches and clamps were removed following my bladder cancer surgery. The first step was the daytime training. I began by clamping off the tube that drained into the large urine bag. I would try to keep it clamped as long as I could. When I felt uncomfortable, I was to drain it into the toilet. It took awhile to be able to keep the tube clamped for two-hour segments. The nighttime training would begin after I mastered this. I went back to work before I had completely mastered the daytime training. That is a story for later.

The daytime training went fairly well. I grew brave and decided to take my first trip, other than to see the doctor. The trip was short. My daughter-in-law took me to a store to pick up some supplies. I had no sooner arrived than I had to go to the bathroom. I think I had drunk too many fluids that morning, and my urostomy bag had filled on the trip to the store. I went into the bathroom. My daughter-in-law waited outside with the cart.

Inside the stall I felt a bit embarrassed about having to stand in front of the commode to empty my bag. Just as I managed to get my skirt up and everything was going well toward reaching my goal of emptying the urostomy bag, I heard the bathroom door open and footsteps running toward my stall. The next thing I knew, a woman yanked the door open, startling me. I turned to see this woman staring at me, her mouth open, and then she screamed. She slammed my stall door and ran out of the bathroom.

At first, I was embarrassed, humiliated and shocked. Then, the humor of the situation took over. I started trying to imagine what the woman thought she saw. I began laughing—at myself and at her reaction. I was still laughing when I came out of the bathroom. My daughter-in-law asked me what was so funny. I asked her if she had seen a woman run out of the bathroom. She said she had. I told her that if she heard a rumor going around that a transvestite was in the ladies' bathroom that she was probably talking about her encounter with me. I still laugh about that experience, but it did make me self-conscious about using public restrooms.

My next trip to my doctor gave me another laugh. He sent me to the lab for X-rays, and I was to bring the X-rays back with me to the doctor's office as soon as they were finished. On the way up the elevator, I read the radiologist's comments. The report said that everything looked fine, but that I had an abnormal umbilical. I was still chuckling when I walked in the doctor's office and handed him the X-rays. He wanted to know what was so funny. I told him to read the report. He said he'd go with me when he ordered that kind of imaging again—and he did.

Check back here to read more from Sylvia. Plus, read more of her story on

Living With Bladder Cancer
Two Diagnoses, One Couple, One Day: Could it be Possible?
Lots of Questions and No One to Talk To
Preparing for Surgery and Staying Positive
It's Not Leprosy, It's Cancer
My Bladder Cancer Surgery
Recovering from Surgery and Still Struggling to Find Support

Learn more about bladder cancer and about Sylvia L. Ramsey, cancer survivor, advocate, author and public speaker, at:,

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