I paced the aisle of the drug store like a lioness on the prowl. I knew there had to be one here,  somewhere, and I had to find it. NOW. 

I checked the diaper aisle. Nada.

The continence product section…Nope. (BTW there are a LOT of options in there…think the diaper aisle with fewer pandas and super heroes…) The paper goods aisle? Nope.

The medical supply aisle? (Yes, I know. I should have started there… but, I was a little stressed, ok?) My eyes scanned the shelves. SCORE! Right between a toilet seat lift and a brace for a body part I’m not sure should ever be braced….A bright blue box with what looked like a milk jug doing yoga on the side.

I grabbed the box like a lion grabs a zebra, and dropped it just as quickly. Yes. It was a urinal, but it was a FEMALE urinal. (Who knew?) Which would be fine if it were for me, but it’ not. It’s for my husband, who is recovering from a radical prostatectomy due to prostate cancer.

A FEMALE urinal. It’s probably not a good idea to bring a guy who’s just had his man-parts attacked by a robot (literally- he had robotic surgery- which is wonderful and has a much better recovery than the old school- open approach.) and is facing all the complications that that implies… a FEMALE urinal. Everything I’ve read says it’s important to help your man maintain dignity and  not feel “less of a man” because of the surgery and it’s side effects.

I wanted to bring him a urinal so he could navigate the catheter removal and bladder rehab with MORE dignity and ease. I did not want to send a “Well- now you’re a woman- here’s a girlie pee-pot for you.” message. I searched the rest of the shelves. I pushed other “medical supplies” out of the way. I was convinced that if there was a female urinal there MUST be a male urinal……Not so much.

I went to the pharmacy counter. “Maybe they keep them in the back… I bet they get stolen all the time.. like condoms and baby formula…. especially by video game addicted college boys….” (I have issues. We know this.)

“Can you please check in the back?” I asked the pharmacy assistant… stumbling through a TMI explanation of my husband’s surgery and the urgency for a MALE urinal.

“Sure, but what we have is usually out.”

She returned empty handed and my eyes filled with tears.

I went back to the medical supply aisle, just in case one had been moved from it’s nicely labeled spot.


I felt defeated. I felt inadequate. I felt overwhelmed and afraid. I grabbed our other “catheter removal” supplies….and paid for them as quickly as I could. I was racing the tears I felt coming on like a tsunami.

It wasn’t about the urinal.

The truth is- I felt out of control.

I like control. I like finding solutions to problems. I like making things better.

As a mother of 3 and wife of 23 years…. the truth is I usually have a lot of control. (In theory. Maybe, I just have a lot of responsibility.) When something goes wrong, I am usually the one to fix it. A kiss and band aid for boo-boos. Hunger is cured with a meal. Work stress is ironed out with active listening and care, family stuff is hashed through with time and attention, broken hearts are healed with love and listening…..

Standing in the pharmacy, crying over a urinal, I was confronted with the truth about my husband’s cancer diagnosis: I can’t fix it. I can’t make it go away.

I can’t control cancer.

I hate it.

I managed to get everything into my car before the tsunami hit.

I think I prayed…If prayers can be yelling at God in your head:

“God, This is stupid. I believe you can heal and I know that you love us. So, I don’t understand why you don’t fix this!….I feel useless and scared and frustrated.. I can’t fix it. I can’t make it better… I’m overwhelmed and ticked off- how can I manage the care of my husband while I take care of everyone else- too? There are only so many hours in a day and I can’t even find a stupid urinal. How am I supposed to do this? I know that the things I can’t control- you can… and right now I’m not liking your idea or plan for “control.” I want some control. No, I need it! I need to fix this. I need to help him through this! If I can’t fix the stupid cancer.. can’t I at least solve the problems that it’s caused? Like FIND A URINAL that doesn’t scream: “Hello, you lost your “man-hood here’s a female urinal?”  You know- You COULD help me out here… you made the earth and all in it–so a male urinal wouldn’t be all that hard, now would it? Don’t you even care? Are you even there?”

It wasn’t pretty. It was more rambling and angry than what I’ve written here- but the truth is I can hardly remember the words. It was pure emotion. That- I remember- Grief. Anger. Fear. Maybe a bit (OK a lot) of pouting over not getting my way and a side of accusation.

When I was finished with my tear filled prayer-rant, I felt the release that comes with tears. I felt less alone. Less overwhelmed. A little less needy for control. (And a little embarrassed for ugly crying in the pharmacy parking lot.)

There weren’t trumpets. God didn’t speak to me in James Earl Jones’ voice and tell me all would be fine. (Trust me- I listened really hard.. I was expecting answers….demanding them. I didn’t get any.) He didn’t show up in the form of Morgan Freeman with a urinal in his hand. (That’s an awkward thought. But seriously- a urinal delivered by Morgan Freeman would have made me feel like God was on it.) He also didn’t strike me dead for accusing him of being unfair and not caring.. (which were more implied than said outright…Hey- I’m honest with God.. but I’m also a little afraid of him… justsayin.)

Even though there weren’t answers- I felt heard.

When I settled down enough to dial the phone- I called a friend to talk through the mess.

She reminded me that God IS in control, even when it doesn’t look like it, and that I don’t HAVE to like it. She reminded me of all the ways God HAS shown up in this process- from the doctor checking the little PSA box 5 years before he typically would- to a pre-op nurse who knows my husbands cousin and let us have 15 people back in pre-op to pray before his surgery. She reminded me I’m not alone and don’t have to do it all. That I need to take care of myself and allow the emotion to be expressed.

Who needs James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman when you have God in the heart and voice of a loving friend?

For the record- after the phone call- I went to another pharmacy and found a male urinal. It’s been 4 days since the catheter removal and he hasn’t used it, once. It’s still in the box. I suppose it’s possible that not EVERYTHING I  think is a necessity – actually IS. Maybe it’s better that God is in control- after all- my assessments might be wrong on occasion. (But, don’t tell my kids I said that:P)

Update- My husband’s surgery was December 28, he’s recuperating well, resting and drinking loads of fluids. We are learning our new normal and hope that by sharing our journey authentically, others will find hope for the crisis’ they face. It wasn’t about a urinal.. it was about control.. and maybe trust.

Yeah, probably trust.

Proverbs 3-

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.[a]

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.