Today is the 1st of September and this marks the first day of ‘Urology Awareness Month’ organised by The Urology Foundation.
Did you know that 1 in 2 of the population will be affected by a urology condition in their lifetime?
This figure is really high yet there still seems to be a taboo attached to urological diseases and interventions.
Breaking the ‘silence’
Unfortunately, there is still quite a lot of stigma attached to urological diseases, talking openly about catheters and awareness of urostomies!
Having both a urostomy and an ileostomy I have a unique perspective into both worlds and both communities. What I have noticed is especially over the last 5 years that there has been great progress in breaking the ‘poo taboo’ with many ileostomates and colostomates getting media coverage. More recently Hannah Witton appearing on ‘Lorraine’ which was brilliant and helps raise awareness and break stigmas of stomas…
How many do we see in the paper that have a urological disease, use catheters or have national coverage that have a urostomy? We rarely do and bladder cancer compared to other cancer types also does not get this much-needed media coverage for awareness. When we compare the 'poo taboo' and the 'wee taboo' we can see a difference.
My 20’s were spent using catheters! First, it was self-catheterising which didn’t work well and it wasn’t long before I had a urethral catheter and a leg bag. I was still trying to work in a busy hospital at the time but I struggled. It wasn’t long before I was given a supra-pubic catheter (SPC) and I had this for 7 years! It wasn’t until I was 28 when a cystoscopy (camera in my bladder) showed the bladder was extremely small, damaged and the cells had started to mutate that I had no option but for my bladder to be removed and a urostomy (ileal conduit) formed. At the time this devastated me but now looking back this was one of the best things that could ever have happened because I am living again! However, I never want to forget that time using catheters when I had no support and felt like the only young person in the world to use them!
Why is Urology Awareness Month important?
For all the reasons I have mentioned above! To join as a community to spread the word, banish the stigma associated with urological conditions, and to start talking about our urology health!
You will never know how many people you could help just by opening up and sharing your story! One regret I have is when I had a long-term catheter I wished I had gone to social media and talked more about my ‘little secret’. Even though I do not have a bladder now I never want to forget that time or stop raising awareness for catheter users as well as urostomies and urological diseases.
There are few things you could do to get involved this month:
- Spread the word! This could simply be talking about your urology health to friends or family and if you feel comfortable even social media (please use the hashtag - #urologyawareness). The urology foundation have some fantastic posters and leaflets which you could use and can access here!
- Fundraise - The Urology foundation is not just to do with raising awareness but also strives to improve the care and treatment received by urology patients by investing in research and specialist training for urologists and nurses.
- Big 5 challenge – Aim’s to raise £60,000 to fund vital research. You can choose your challenge. To find out more please click here
By talking openly about your urological disease you may encourage others who have symptoms to seek help from their GP who perhaps were too afraid to get checked out before!
So let us join together as a urology community and start talking openly about our urology diseases and conditions to help raise awareness and start breaking taboos…