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Incontinence Stories From Experts & Real People | NAFC BHealth Blog

Log in daily to learn tips about #incontinence, #bladder leakage, overcoming symptoms, and first hand accounts from experts and patients.

 

NAFC's Getting Started Guide For Managing Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

 NAFC's Getting Started Guide To Managing Incontinence

If you’re new to this whole incontinence game, you may wonder how on earth you’re going to manage. Preventing leaks, keeping things clean, and navigating the isles of adult absorbent products at the grocery store are all probably top of mind right now, and rightly so. These are often the first steps people take when trying to manage bladder leaks.

But what comes next? And how do you even begin to tackle those items we just listed above?

We have you covered. NAFC has dedicated a whole section of our website to just getting started (which, to be honest, is often the hardest part). We’ve outlined the things you should do before you even make your first appointment to see your doctor (which you should do anyway, even if you complete all the steps we outline in our Getting Started Guide). 

 NAFC's Getting Started Guide For Managing Incontinence

This guide covers the basic steps, from how to keep a bladder diary, finding the right absorbent product, practicing pelvic floor strengthening moves, retraining your bladder or bowel, and a look at the vast array of options you have available to you for managing incontinence.

So take a look around, and start implementing some of these tips!  Begin with the first step:  finding an immediate way to manage your condition with absorbent products.   Then move on to the other helpful tips.

 

 

NAFC's Message Boards Provide A Safe Community For Incontinence Sufferers

Sarah Jenkins

 Join the NAFC Message Boards - An Anonymous Online Community For Bladder and Bowel Health

NAFC is a huge proponent of opening up about your incontinence. Talking with others about what you’re experiencing can be very therapeutic. But, we know that speaking openly about something like incontinence is not always so easy.

That’s why we created the NAFC message boards. It’s a anonymous community that let’s our visitors talk openly about their bladder and bowel health issues without judgment. Our community is filled with a supportive and caring community ready to help with questions, share stories, or just lend a comforting ear.

Don’t believe us? Check out some of the message board posts from our community:


“Thank you for your kind words. This is the first time that I’ve ever opened up to anyone. I’m really happy that I found a place where people are supportive and can truly understand what I’m going through.”
“Posting here is a difficult step for me to take. I am too young for this – my 24th birthday is this month. But since there are many others on this forum that share in incontinence, I will give it a try.” 
“I am a 35 year-old woman and I have been suffering from incontinence at bedtime all my life. It’s made my social/dating life very hard. I’ve turned down proposals, as I’m too ashamed to tell my partner why we can’t live together. I’m desperate to stop this so I can live a normal life and have a husband partner. I’m happy I found this community.”
“Bedwetting started for me as a teen. It was occasional and a huge source of shame for me. And to continue into adulthood was just humiliating. Hear to listen and talk with anyone else who cares to support each other with this issue.”
“Hello everyone. I’ve read some of your posts and its nice to not feel quite so alone with these sorts of problems.”

You are not alone. There are others out there who understand what you’re going through, and who are willing to listen and provide support.

If you’re struggling with incontinence, or any other bladder or bowel condition, or if you’re caring for someone who is, join our community. We’re all here for you. Because no one should have to walk this path alone.

 

 

NAFC's Many Resources For Managing Overactive Bladder

Sarah Jenkins

 NAFC's Resources For Overactive Bladder

Do you have overactive bladder? If you find yourself often running to the bathroom, you might be suffering from OAB – the urgent and frequent need to urinate. And, that urgent need may be difficult to stop, causing you to experience bladder leaks. Overactive bladder affects over 35 million people in the US, and can be a big disrupter to your everyday life. You may be struggling with this condition and wondering how to stop overactive bladder. But knowing more about the condition, what causes it, and how you can manage and treat it can make a big difference.

NAFC has tons of resources for patients living with overactive bladder. Check out the two listed below:

 

OAB Resource Center

The NAFC OAB Resource Center has videos about Overactive Bladder, first hand patient stories, and articles and brochures to help you understand the condition and what to do about it. It also has a collection of downloadable guides that can help you manage your condition. Download our OAB screener to evaluate the severity of your condition, get a tips sheet on bladder retraining, try the NAFC Bladder Diary, and get our tips for how to talk to your doctor about oab.

 

OAB Treatment Tracker

Do you feel like you’ve tried everything to treat your Overactive Bladder? NAFC created the OAB Treatment Tracker to help you determine your next best step in treatment options. Answer a few questions about your symptoms, the treatments you have tried in the past, and new treatments you may be interested in and receive a customized email outlining treatment options that may be a good fit for you. Best of all, you can print out the email and bring it with you to your doctor’s appointment to help facilitate a discussion about treatment options for OAB.

 

 

 

 

 

NAFC's Learning Library Can Help You Better Understand Your Bladder And Bowel Condition

Sarah Jenkins

 Watch Educational Videos From NAFC's Learning Library

Ever tried to learn about a complicated condition? It may seem like bladder and bowel problems are simple, but sometimes you need a little help understanding how things work, how to manage certain conditions, and the steps to take to avoid them.

That’s where the NAFC Learning Library comes in. Need some help knowing how to manage Overactive Bladder? We’ve got it. Want some tips on how to prevent bedwetting? Check out our video on that. Want to better understand nocturia, or learn how to insert a catheter? Want to learn more about kegels, or how to care for a pessary? We can help!

We’ve got the videos you need to help you along in your journey toward a Life Without Leaks.  Our collection of educational videos is growing all the time. Check out the NAFC Learning Library to better understand your condition and find ways to treat it.

Patient Perspective: Why I No Longer Mind Wearing Adult Diapers

Sarah Jenkins

Patient Perspective Fishing

I’m a 48-year old man, and I wear adult absorbent briefs. Every day, every night.

The problem started when I was around 40. I had always had some nighttime bedwetting issues, but they were rare and something I managed for most of my life with waterproof bedding.

But after I turned 40, I noticed I was having more and more frequent episodes at night. I tried wearing absorbent pads, but they still leaked, causing me to have to change my bed sheets almost 4 times a week.

Then the problem started happening during the day – I just couldn’t hold it in long enough to make it to the bathroom. I saw three doctors, and none of them could find a specific diagnosis for me to explain why I was having this problem.

I spent at least a year in denial – foregoing protection because I was embarrassed, but running to the bathroom more often than I wanted. I brought extra clothes with me to work and to social functions “just in case”, and soon, started to limit outings as much as I could because I couldn’t face the prospect of having an accident in front of my family and friends.

I finally realized that if I wanted any semblance of a normal life, I needed to use protection. I did my research and tried out several types of absorbent products to find something that worked for me. (Turns out I use absorbent briefs for day and night, although my nighttime briefs are thicker for extra protection.) 

It used to bother me that I had to wear “diapers” but now, I don’t think about it at all. I’d rather know I am protected vs. having an accident in public.

If you struggle with bladder leakage, just bite the bullet and find a product that works for you. In the end, you’ll be so relieved to know that “you’re covered”, and most people won’t even know you are wearing extra protection.

Mike W., Pensacola, FL

Patient Perspective: Roger's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Roger's Story

I see it all the time – the ads for OAB, featuring these women who have to run to the bathroom every five minutes. They’re always women, right? You never see a man in these ads.  But I’m a man, and quite frankly, I feel a little left out.

I have OAB. I’ve lived with this condition for the past several years. I don’t have any known reason for it – I’ve never had prostate issues, am not on many medications, and rarely get bladder infections. But the urge to use the bathroom strikes me often and it’s pretty annoying. I usually make it in time, but have had the occasional leak. I’ve talked with my doctor about it but after he determined that my prostate was normal, he sort of brushed it off for a while – I don’t think he’s used to hearing a man come in with this type of problem unless it’s prostate related. But I finally was persistent enough that he prescribed some medication.

I experienced so many negative side effects from each medication I tried over the course of several months that I stopped them completely. It was then that my doctor finally recommended Botox. Yes, I had Botox injected into my bladder. And I have to say it was one of the best things that happened to me. It took almost no time to work, I didn’t need to use a catheter (I guess some people need to), and it lasted about 6-7 months before I had to go back in for another treatment.

It took some pushing on my part, but I was able to get treatment for my OAB. If you’re a man with this condition, don’t let it control you, and don’t believe there’s not a treatment available for you. The media and drug companies focus on women because it’s more common for them to have these types of issues, but men can have them just as easily.  And the medications and procedures work just as well for us.

Do something about your OAB. I’m so glad I persisted and got treatment for it. It helps me live a fuller life without the worry of overactive bladder.

Roger S., New York, NY

Patient Perspective: Debbie's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Debbie's Story

My husband suffers from incontinence. He has for years. He never thought I knew, but I noticed when he would rush to the bathroom with a change of underwear. I watched as he consistently sought out the restrooms anywhere we went. And I definitely noticed the changed bed sheets when I would come home from work due to leaks the previous night. 

I wanted so badly to help him. To talk with him about it. To tell him that I understand and that it is ok. But how do you tell an ex army man whose very core is built on pride and being strong that you’re concerned about him wetting himself?

So, I stayed silent for years, and so did he, until finally he couldn’t anymore. We were out to dinner with friends when he had an accident, and had forgotten to bring along a spare pair of underwear. Panicked, he made up an excuse for us to leave immediately, and finally broke down in the car, telling me what I had known for years.

He was so ashamed, but I did my best to show him that I was supportive and didn’t think any less of him because of it. In the end, telling me was the best thing that could have happened, since I finally was able to help him.

We made an appointment to go see a doctor together, and he learned the many options available to him for treatment. He’s doing so much better now.

And though he still has some occasional leaks, he knows that he has me to lean on and doesn’t have to live with the stress of constantly trying to hide it.

I only wish I could have given him the courage to speak up sooner.
 
Debbie R., Omaha, NE

 

Patient Perspective: Brad's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Brad's Story

My friends and I are close. Growing up in a small town, we’ve always been there for each other – to joke with, lean on in hard times, and to razz each other. We have a tight-knit group of 5 and they’ve been my chosen family since I was 12. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since our early days, but here we all are.

I experienced incontinence after having my prostate removed in 2013. It wasn’t a fun thing to go through, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it, but the one thing that made it easier was that I knew to expect it – and that I wasn’t the only one.

You see, one of my buddies in our group, Joe, had also gone through something similar a few years back. He pulled me aside before surgery and told me that the worst thing that was going to happen was that I’d probably have some leaks – maybe a lot. It had happened to him for at least a year after his surgery and he said it was “hell “.

But he told me that the thing that had made it worse was not knowing it was coming, That was why he was talking to me – he wanted to me to know that I wasn’t alone. And, if it weren’t for his advice and pick-me-up talks, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that first year.

I’ve recovered well and don’t really experience the leaks anymore. But I still talk about it. Because that’s what we should all do with those we are close to. You never know who might benefit from your experience, or who might also go through something similar and just need a friend or to know they are not alone.

Don’t let your own embarrassment get in the way of opening up to your loved ones. I’m sure glad Joe didn’t.
 
Brad T., Auburn, AL

Patient Perspective - Teen Bedwetting

Sarah Jenkins

Patient Perspective - teen bedwetting

I’m sharing this story as an adult, but it is really about my childhood. I suffered from bedwetting when I was young and it lasted until I was almost a teenager.  I was lucky enough to have very supportive parents, but that didn’t stop the shame I felt every time it happened. It never felt like a big deal until I was around 7. Then I started getting invited to sleep overs, which were always very stressful for me. I was constantly scared of wetting the bed at someone else’s house and of my friends learning my secret. I started to turn down invitations simply because of my fear, and the problem began to effect me emotionally. Luckily, my bedwetting slowed down a lot after I was around 9, but I still had an occasional accident through age 12.

I’m not sure what I would have done I hadn’t had such wonderful parents to help me through it. They never made me feel bad about it, and always were as discreet as possible when helping me clean up after an accident. Their support took a lot of the pressure off of me, which I think would have only added to my problem back then. I now have a 3-year old myself, and, knowing that they could possibly experience prolonged bedwetting (after all – it is hereditary) shows me how stressful it can be for a parent. If you are a parent of a young child reading this, please take this one thing away:  Support your child, even if their problem has caused you countless sleepless nights, extra loads of laundry, and profound frustrations. I can tell you first-hand that it likely pales in comparison to the shame they’ve felt themselves. And the support and understanding you can give to them during this time will do wonders for their self-esteem and sense of wellbeing. They will remember it forever – I know I have.

Terry B., Salt Lake City, Utah

Need a solution for nighttime bedwetting? Try NAFC's Bedwetting Kit, available here.

Patient Perspective: Ethan's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Ethan's Story

I am an adult bed wetter.  Those are hard words to say for a 52 year old man. I first started experiencing nighttime leaks when I was in my teens.  Just once in awhile. I’d laugh it off with my brother.  

But as I grew further into adulthood and it kept happening, I knew it was no longer a laughing matter. I found that the problem worsened when I went away to college and I took great pains to keep it hidden from my roommate.  I dared not buy protection from the stores near my campus for fear of someone seeing me, so I would drive an hour away just to pick up whatever absorbent pads I could find, which usually were not a great fit and didn’t do a lot to protect me.  I put blankets on my bed to absorb the leaks, but they didn’t help mask the odor.  

After college I got my own place, without roommates, so I wouldn’t have to worry so much about them finding out. I finally made the decision to speak to a doctor at age 30 – nearly 14 years after suffering from this problem on and off.  

While I still don’t know the reason I wet the bed, my doctor helped me find resources to manage the condition.  After trying several different absorbent products, I finally found one that fits well and is specific to nighttime use, so I rarely wake up anymore with leaks.  

I’ve also discovered that I’m not the only one out there with this problem – NAFC’s message boards have really helped me connect with others and sharing with them has been such a relief.  After years of embarrassment and isolation, I’m so thankful to have found help and to know that I’m not alone.

Ethan S., San Jose, CA

Patient Perspective: Larry's Story

Sarah Jenkins

pexels-photo-848205.jpeg

I’m 68 years old and I have incontinence. I’ve suffered a lot of setbacks over the years. I lost a finger in the army. I suffer from high blood pressure. And I have an old football injury that flares up regularly. But I have never suffered as much shame and humiliation as I have since I started experiencing incontinence.

It started innocently enough - a leak here and there. My doctor said it was due to prostate problems and gave me some medication to help. It did for a while, but then the leaks flared up again and I was forced to admit that this problem was not going away.

My first trip to the grocery store to purchase incontinence pads was a doozy. Standing there, looking at the wall of options was so intimidating. What do I choose? What size? How do I know it will fit? What if it doesn’t – can I return the bag? I had so many questions and no one to ask – after all, it’s not like men just talk about peeing their pants with each other all the time. Not to mention I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure that no one I knew saw me standing there. It would be so embarrassing to be “caught” in this situation.

When I finally got home, I started trying out the various absorbent products that I had purchased. I had bought 3 different types and gave each one a fair shot for a full day before making the call. Unfortunately none of them worked so I was back to the drawing board.

Fortunately, my wife found a company online that sold different products so I gave it a shot. I don’t know why I didn’t start with this option in the first place. They offered a free consultation so I gave them a call. The rep was so helpful and it was great having a guide to walk me through the different options, and also learn more about me, my condition and my lifestyle to help find something that would work best for me.

These days, I only use online services to order absorbent products. And, I’ve found great products that help me keep my leaks controlled, and my condition under wraps so no one is the wiser.
 

I still don’t love having incontinence, but it’s become such a normal part of life now that it doesn’t have the same hold on me as it once did. I didn’t envision this happening to me, but am happy to know that there are resources out there to help and products available that can make it more manageable. I feel free to live my life without fear of leaks and that is something to be really proud of.

Larry B., Seattle, WA

Patient Perspective: Nick's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Nick's Story

In August of 2015, I underwent surgery to have my prostate removed.  I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer the year before and my doctor had been closely observing me since then. 

When it seemed that my cancer was growing more quickly than he liked, he suggested surgery.  “Afterall”, he said, “you’re only 63.  You can still have a long life without worrying about this.”

So, after a lot of research, I went for it.  I knew there would be complications afterward, but incontinence was not something that I had anticipated being that big of a deal.  I thought I’d probably have to wear diapers for a couple of weeks and that would be the end of it. 

Boy was I wrong. 

Nine months later and I was still having a difficult time making it to the restroom.  It was so embarrassing as a man to face this problem. I couldn’t do the things I wanted to because I was scared of having an accident or a leak, and I felt ashamed of the bulky diapers that I was forced to constantly wear. 

I finally made an appointment with a surgeon in May to discuss a sling procedure and will be having the procedure done next month.  I’m hopeful that this will be a solution for me so that I can get on with my life and get back to doing the things that are important to me. 

Nick W., Houston, TX

Patient Perspective: Samuel's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Samuel's Story

How many of you men have incontinence? How many of you would admit if you did?  It’s a hard thing to come to terms with as a man. I know, because I’m one of the lucky ones who has been hit with this condition.

I had been noticing the need to use the bathroom more frequently for a while, but didn’t think much of it until I was on vacation with my wife a few years ago. We were in DC, walking around, being the typical tourists, when I suddenly felt the need to go. I wasn’t totally familiar with the area, and it was crowded, so it took me a while to find a bathroom. Unfortunately, it took me too long. I leaked – just a little bit, but enough to be able to tell. Luckily, I had a sweatshirt with me so I just wrapped it around my waist and told my wife we needed to head back to the hotel.

I was so embarrassed. She didn’t understand what had happened until we got back and saw that I needed to change my pants. And even then, it was hard for either of us to comprehend what had happened – I’m a grown man! I shouldn’t be wetting myself. We both brushed it off as a fluke and went on with the rest of our trip.

But a few weeks later at the gym, it happened again. And then again while doing some yard work at home. I started to feel like my body was betraying me. Why was this happening? I didn’t tell my wife that the problem had persisted until a few months later, when it was clear that I would need to get some help. She was so understanding and helpful. She did some research online to see what may be causing it and the treatment options available, helped me find a urologist to talk to, and even came with me to my appointment.

I’m happy to say that after talking to the doctor and getting treatment, I’m doing much better. Turns out I had an enlarged prostate so I’m on medication for that and it’s greatly reduced the need to run to the bathroom every five minutes, not to mention the leaks.

This has been a very humbling experience, but I’m glad that I opened up to my wife about it and that she was so understanding and helpful. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to get to a doctor about this had it not been for her pushing me along. Now, I’m leak free and am able to travel, workout and do pretty much what I want again without having to worry.

Samuel M., Cheyenne, WY

 

 

Patient Perspective: Molly's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Molly's Story

OAB has long been a problem for me.  I’ve had gradually increasing symptoms since the birth of my second daughter 20 years ago. 

The sudden urge to go can strike at any time, but I’ve learned ways to manage it – I know my triggers (doing the dishes!) and have learned the hard way that I just need to carry around an extra change of clothes. 

For years, my various doctors dismissed these symptoms as nothing to worry about.  “It happens to many women your age”, or “This type of thing happens as you get older”.  This type of response was always really frustrating to me, but I trusted my doctor and felt that they knew best so never really pressed the issue.

I was prescribed medication once, but never really liked the side effects and at the time didn’t know about any alternatives. 

I finally decided it was time to take matters into my own hands when I nearly missed my daughter getting her diploma at her high school graduation because I was in the bathroom.  I got to work doing my own research on treatment options for OAB – turns out there are a lot!  I spoke frankly with my doctor about my wishes, and got a referral to a urogynecologist, who set me up with a simple procedure that I didn’t even know existed a year ago. 

Now, I rarely experience symptoms and I can’t believe I accepted this condition as normal for so long. 

Ladies – take your health into your own hands!  Demand treatment from your doctor and express your concerns.  You know your body better than anyone else - be your own best advocate! OAB is NOT normal! Do something about it and change your life for the better!

Molly R., Montclair, NJ

 

Patient Perspectives: Julie's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Julie's Story

I’ve always been close to my Mom, but after my Dad passed away 5 years ago, we became closer than ever. We talked on the phone every day and I checked in with her every weekend. She was still very active, even after Dad passed, and continued to play golf every month, meet her girlfriends for bridge and walk her dog two times a day.  All of this changed when she had a stroke.

Suddenly, my very independent Mom was unable to do most things for herself.  Without a second thought, I took her in and cared for her as much as possible as she began her slow path to recovery. It was a shock to suddenly watch a woman that I always looked to for guidance be suddenly, completely dependent on me.  

I’m not going to lie - it’s been difficult at times.  She has always been a very proud woman and to have to ask for help for things like using the bathroom, or worse, to need help cleaning up after an accident, was mortifying for her and uncomfortable for me.  

After some trial and error, we finally developed a rhythm with each other and learned which products worked best for day and night. Even though it’s hard, I’m so grateful to still have my mom with me, and I can’t thank organizations like NAFC enough for providing education on management options during this difficult time of life. Help is there if you need it - you just need to know where to look.  

Julie F., Tampa, FL

Patient Perspective: Alice's Story

Sarah Jenkins

It’s a funny thing, aging. I’m 68 years old, but I don’t feel any different than I did at 20. It happens so gradually really, but it feels like it comes out of nowhere. One day, you’re sitting there with your whole life ahead of you, and then suddenly, you’re walking along, you glance at your reflection and you see an old woman looking back at you. But you don’t feel any different. At least I didn’t. Until I started having bladder leaks.

My bladder leaks crept up on me just like getting old did. I had a few accidents here and there after kids, but didn’t start really noticing them regularly until I was in my late 50’s. I told myself I was too young to have this problem; that they weren’t that big of a deal and that I could manage it on my own.

The truth is, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know about my leakage problem. I hid it well, or so I thought, but after a while, it started to weigh on me. Always packing a spare change of clothes, always scouting out the nearest bathroom in case of an emergency. It wasn’t until my daughter finally confronted me that I broke down.

I was visiting her at her house when I had an accident and had to change my pants. My daughter noticed and finally decided that enough was enough. She told me how she had watched me for years try to “hide” my problem, and urged me to get help. She also told me how she herself had talked with her doctor after her son was born and she had started experiencing leaks too. “The good news,” she said, “is that I’m doing so much better, and I hardly have any leaks at all anymore. I want that for you too, Mom.”

Talking to my daughter really opened up my eyes. She was right, and I couldn’t believe I had spent so long trying to hide the issue. Worse, I couldn’t believe she had gone through it too. If I had been open about it, maybe I could have offered some comfort to her, but instead she had had to deal with it on her own. I felt ashamed and embarrassed – not because of my bladder leaks, but because of my silence.

So, I decided to finally get help. After so many years of living with the problem, I didn’t realize how much it had taken over my life. And now that I’ve started taking medication for my bladder leaks, I am so much happier and freer.

I am 68, but the 20 year old still lives inside of me. And now, I can proudly say that I feel just as good today as I did back then.

Don’t wait to get help. Take the initiative to talk to your doctor and get the help you need. We can’t all do this alone and life is too short to let a day go by where this condition is controlling you. Suck up your pride, realize that we all need some help once in a while and just do it. I promise you, you’ll be so glad you did.

Alice B., San Jose, CA

Patient Perspective: Ellen's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Ellen's Story

After the birth of my 2nd child, I began experiencing urinary incontinence.  I started leaking a bit here and there, and it only got worse as I got older. I assumed it was just a part of aging and that there was nothing I could do. And while the episodes were embarrassing, I was able to control and hide them pretty well by wearing protection and always keeping a close eye on the toilet. 
 
However, when my youngest was 15 years old, I had my first real bowel accident, and life as I knew it officially changed.  I began having more and more episodes, and eventually didn’t even want to leave the house because I was so terrified of having an accident.  I stopped seeing friends. I ordered groceries and most things I needed online.  I refused to go on dates with my husband.  There is something that feels just a little bit worse about having a bowel accident vs. having a bladder accident – it’s messier, smellier, much more apparent, and just so humiliating that you never want others to know it is something you are going through.  
 
I lived like this for six years before finally realizing that I wasn’t controlling my ABL, it was controlling me.  I got up the nerve to speak with my doctor and was able to have a surgery that helped alleviate many of my issues. 
 
All of this could not have come soon enough – my first granddaughter was born a year ago and to think that I may have missed out on that moment or all the wonderful ones that have followed makes me cringe. My only regret is that I didn’t do something about it sooner.
 
Ellen T., Atlanta, GA
 

Patient Perspective: Sally's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Sally's Story

Once both my kids were in elementary school full time, I finally started working out. I became a runner, and devoted most mornings after they were in school to jogging through the neighborhood. I entered races and started doing small 5Ks, until I finally worked my way up to a full marathon last year. Things were going great and I was feeling strong and happy.

So, imagine my surprise, after years of being an avid runner, to suddenly start experiencing bladder leaks. My kids were not little anymore – they were both in high school at this point and I thought that I bypassed this type of problem that usually accompanies childbirth.

I spoke to my doctor, and found out that, to my surprise, this problem often accompanies serious runners too. Turns out that pounding the pavement every day isn’t so great for your pelvic floor. In fact, my doctor told me that up to 30% of female runners experience incontinence while running.

My doctor said there are lots of things that can weaken the pelvic floor over the years; childbirth, age, and surgeries can all take their toll (I unfortunately check all three boxes). Add to that running several miles per week, and I saw how my activity was contributing to the problem. 

I wasn't ready to give up running, and luckily my doctor didn't think I had to. While there are many therapies available (medication, surgery, exercise), he started me on a regimen of kegel exercises. I do them first thing in the morning, and 3 other times throughout the day.  He also recommended that I try some other behavioral tactics: limit my fluid intake right before my run, make sure to empty my bladder before running, and try planning a route that has some bathroom stops along the way. 

These changes have been helping me a lot and while there might come a time that I consider something like surgery, for now, it helps to know that I’m able to take matters into my own hands and manage my bladder leaks without stopping the activities I love. 

I'm glad I opened up about this condition and can continue my passion!

Sally S., Atlanta, GA

Patient Perspective: Alison's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Alison's story

I'm a survivor. I’ve lived through the joy (and scars) of giving birth to three boys, experienced two job layoffs, suffered through one divorce, and most recently, battled (and beat the shit out of) breast cancer. I didn’t really expect, after all that, to be so impacted by something as trivial as incontinence.

I first started having symptoms during my cancer treatments – my doctor said that it could sometimes be a side effect of chemo – but thought that it would go away once chemo was over. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

A year after completing treatment, I was still experiencing leakage.  At first, I just lived with it, thinking it would go away on it’s own. I packed extra underwear and experimented with various incontinence pads to help me manage.

I finally decided to talk to my doctor when it was clear that my leaky bladder wasn’t getting any better. My doctor had me make some diet adjustments, prescribed a medication to help stop the leaks, and sent me to a physical therapist to help me learn how to strengthen up my pelvic floor. 

I’ve had one year of regular PT sessions and I am happy to say that I rarely have leaks anymore (even after I stopped taking the medication). 

I’ve lived through a lot of setbacks in my life. But after surviving all of the hardships, I certainly wasn’t going to let something like incontinence control me. Life is just too short to live with something that’s so treatable.

Ladies – find the help if you need it.
 

Alison B., San Diego, CA

Patient Perspectives: Marilyn's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Marilyn's Story

My mom has always had urgency issues. Growing up it seemed that almost anything she ate would result in a bathroom trip within the next 30 minutes.  And not just causal bathroom trips either – urgent, NEED TO GO RIGHT NOW, bathroom trips.  These were a constant source of frustration for our family – no one understanding that it was something she couldn’t help. 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve experienced some of the same symptoms myself. The urgent needs to empty my bowels, occasional abdominal pains, daily bloating. Thinking that it was just something I inherited, and something that couldn’t really be fixed, I lived with those symptoms for years before casually mentioning it to my doctor during a routine check up.

I was surprised when he mentioned irritable bowel syndrome and after hearing the symptoms, was certain that it was what I, and likely my mother, suffered from for all those years.

After some tests, I was proven correct and he started me on a medication that has mostly erased the discomfort I used to feel on a daily basis.

My Mom has been gone for several years, and I hate that we never pushed her to talk to her doctor about this problem. Thinking back on all the pain and frustration she went through (and likely embarrassment and shame) feels like such a waste considering all that can be done to treat IBS.

But, while it may be too late for her to get treatment, I’m glad that I finally did speak up to my doctor and am not following the same path. Life is just too short to live every day with something that can be treated so easily.
 
Marilyn R., Indianapolis, IN