18 March 2022: Two years after my prostatectomy, my urine control is quite good. Tonight it got a pressure test.

It’s always tough when you are away from home and need to pee. It gets tougher after prostate cancer surgery, because you have only one rather second-rate urine control valve remaining. Tonight I walked around for over an hour in Zagreb, Croatia while desperate to pee. I imagined big wet patches appearing on my trousers repeatedly, while walking amongst throngs of holidaymakers. It got quite comical.

It was a wonderful clear evening toward the end of winter, cold and crisp. After a day’s very satisfying work with some amazing creative Croatian fintech businesses, I enjoyed a lovely local beer with some of my clients. As we parted, my host recommended that I visit the Zagreb Festival of Lights downtown. My Google Maps said it was around 8 km round trip. I considered that walkable, and off I went with a spring in my step.

But after about ten minutes I needed to pee. Those lovely craft beers wanted their way out of me.

And yet I was somehow too shy to just walk into a shop or restaurant and ask to use their loo. Was it because I don’t speak Croatian? Or because I was loving the walk so much? Or perhaps I am just plain weird. I kept telling myself there would be a better place around the next corner. Maybe it is just a guy thing, like not stopping to ask for directions.

And the urge built up. Glad my pelvic floor muscles are strong.

Keeping on walking to stave off a deluge

As the urge built up, I wanted to stop, both to buy a snack and to go to the loo.

And yet, as you know, if you keep moving you are less likely to wet your pants. As the need got more urgent, I got more scared of being made to wait behind a counter if I did ask to buy food or use the loo. Then I might really embarrass myself with a deluge. So I kept walking, even jaywalking in a most un-European way. All this to avoid getting stuck in a shop or at a traffic intersection.

If I stopped, I would be hopping on one leg and trying not to grab my crotch too obviously.

Needing to pee and nowhere to go

Hopping for the loo at the Festival of Lights

After about half an hour I got to the city centre where the festival of lights was truly spectacular. Amazing images are powerfully projected in a way that clothes entire buildings in wraparound art. They also have more active moving light shows with dancing spotlights and magical patterns. And I loved the huge city-centre playground where kids were laughing on illuminated seesaws and roundabouts and begging their parents for ice cream and candy floss.

Of course I had to hop on one leg to take the accompanying photo without leaking. Mostly I just kept walking, marvelling at the sights but not safe to stand still without leaking.

Such a deep primal urge (to pee)

My walk around this beautiful city was basically dominated by my desperate need to empty my bladder. That was quite a comic festival all on its own. I was trying to use my conscious mind to control what is basically an automatic trigger to empty my bladder. Thank goodness it was dark and everybody else was concentrating on having a wonderful time with their families.

It strikes me that this urge to pee is a bit like sex – a basic body function that takes over one’s being, eclipsing all else.

Leaking can loom larger in mind than body

My urine leak signalling system is actually hypersensitive. It warns me of impending leaks before any moisture even reaches my underwear. While my night in Zagreb was a wet-pants emergency, my brain made more of it than reality.

On the way back from the Festival of Lights, my walking route went past the central station and I knew there would be public toilets there. So you can imagine my horror when I got to the door only to find the whole toilet block closed for repair! Again, my mind was picturing the great dark deluge down my trouser legs. And my lone post-prostatectomy urine-control sphincter was letting me know it was ready to give up.

Amazingly, when I finally got back to my hotel and as I rushed towards the loo, I had not much more than a wet patch in my underpants. Messy, yes, but not the drama I had imagined all the way around this lovely European city and its amazing Festival of Lights. Of course, the last few steps were not quite so pretty – when mind and body know the loo is near, the floodgates start to open just a teensy bit more.

All in all, I am glad to made the most of my evening in Zagreb and got back to privacy before the deluge. What a privilege to be visiting this wonderful part of the world during a window of opportunity between Covid outbreaks, and under the shadow of the Ukraine war.