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Tuesday 12th of December 2017

Staring Down Alligators and Incontinence PDF Print Email
Disease & Illness - Prostate Cancer
Written by: Kate Kew   
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 13:23
Lady Luck is about to betray me. It looks like I will win a lottery I would rather not: a hunting permit for some very wily game.


Lady Luck is about to betray me. It looks like I will win a lottery I would rather not: a hunting permit for some very wily game.

The fierce hunk of luggage leather known as the American Alligator draws no sympathy from me. My great aunt learned to never garden with her back to the canal on account of one of these sneaky reptiles and it was a close call. This cold blooded critter enjoys a nonsensical but legally protected status even though it is not an endangered species with little to no natural predators of its own. The Department of Natural Resources literature has very little to offer in defense of the alligator beyond some muzzy mention of 'helping to keep other species' population under control'.

Southern waterways in human populated areas sport signage warning people that it is illegal to harass the alligators, with no mention of the menace the reptiles in turn pose. Whenever I return to my car after shopping at the local mall, I warily check in advance that there isn't one lurking under the car. With this not being an altogether infrequent occurrence, the DNR has quietly taken to issuing lottery allocated hunting licenses in the past several years. In my state of South Carolina where the estimated alligator population runs around 100,000, this year one thousand lucky hunters can win a chance to legally bag their own gator. Most of them will be hoping to plunge their harpoons into the granddaddy-sized ones that can reach 16 feet in length.

Since I rarely gamble on anything more than a church raffle ticket, I originally figured my chance of winning a spot among the gator hunters was very slim. Now people tell me that last year there were only a few hundred lottery entrants, ensuring that everyone who anted up got a license. So it looks like push may come to shove and I will be dealing with my mettle head on. How did I get here in the first place?

I should blame Walt, my next door neighbor, for egging me on. Since his prostate surgery, he hasn't been a happy man and he has let me know about it. An avid outdoorsman, he has found this hiccup in his lifestyle to be a literal pain in the ass. Not my choice of words - his. He is grateful that his cancer recovery prognosis is a good one but he is the kind of guy who resents any enforced down time. He was caught off guard by the tiredness he experienced and worse yet, the stress urinary incontinence. He didn't have to tell me about that part but that is Walt for you.

Everyone drops in on Walt via the garage door. It is a gaping maw at the end of his driveway, always pushed open when the earl is holding court. The knotty pine paneled walls are decked with testaments to his outdoorsmanship. Unearthly long snake skins, a mangy bobcat head and the piece de resistance, a monster alligator skin. For me, it is like looking at a car wreck; I can't help myself despite a predictable case of the shivers every single time. As though pulled by a marionette string, my hand thrusts forward to trace the ridged distance from eyes to nostrils. Fascinatingly, this distance in inches serves as a good guesstimate for the beast's actual length in feet. Handy stuff to know when sizing up a submerged gator.

A few weeks ago, I was doing my bit as part of a casserole brigade for Walt during his convalescence, dropping off a chicken divan or some such thing. I entered as usual through the garage door and once again, like an automaton, my hand ran its course down the mounted reptile's snout. Walt gave his usual half smirk at my predictability but it was obvious his mind was elsewhere. Then without warning, he spilled his guts. "Well, Sister, I don't know what kind of a man I am anymore, what with peein' my pants and all these days. I probably should just buy me a rockin' chair and some shares in one of them adult diapers companies." Perhaps he felt so free to express his self disgust because he knew very well this was my line of work, incontinence supplies.

Walt is more than aware that his encounter with prostate cancer was a very sobering business. He also feels lucky that his prognosis is a happy one. But he remains the impatient, gung-ho character he always has been and is seriously annoyed with the common but most often temporary SUI (Stress Urinary Incontinence) that he has been forced to deal with. There was medical literature strewn across his oak bar that dominates the house-side wall of his garage that I was plenty familiar with. Much of it displayed photos of smiling, relieved male patients consulting with their physicians during prostate cancer treatment, learning the ins and outs of possibilities and procedures.

The pamphlets illustrated how the prostate wraps the urethra and how surgery or radiation can possibly lead to various degrees of incontinence, most of which will improve or disappear with time or other surgical intervention. After a prostatectomy or radiation, the sphincter muscles that hold back bladder flow either need time to regain control or the help of some other medical intervention. All workable solutions, all reassuring.

Walt wasn't having much to do with these calming attempts. There were nagging questions, I could see that behind his joshing about shopping for adult diapers, pads or whatever the hell you called them, as he put it. Then with the swing of a pendulum, he changed the subject. "I could use some cheering up and I know just what it would take." He reached under the bar like a saloon keeper in some kind of Wild West film and pulled out a battery of underwater artillery, his harpoon and trusty bang stick. "It's time for you to bag some luggage material for yourself, girl."

So here I sit, contemplating the electronic signature line on the alligator hunting lottery, knowing full well it is time to put my money where my mouth is. Anything to cheer up an old friend, I say to myself, but of course it is more than that. It is about facing fears, including the one with eyes that glow red in the beam of a flashlight in a dark, night-filled swamp. Walt's son, a seasoned gator hunter himself, has promised to come along. I guess he understands that I won't be good for much. Terror and incontinence go hand in hand and it may be prudent to temporarily resort to adult diapers myself for this adventure.

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