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Incontinence & Preserving My Dignity

This is my 28th article. The number is not the milestone. The milestone is the fact that it has taken this many articles to reach this point of willingness to address the following. Bladder leakage, urge incontinence, the inability to hold my water.

Unable to reach a bathroom in time

Physically, it is a simple thing. The muscles of my bladder have weakened. My prostate has aged, and by the time the urge to relieve myself reaches my brain, I am unable to reach a washroom in time. There are medications that are designed to help, but I have not had success with them and my urologist agreed that they do not appear to be an option. There is a surgical option, but I won’t have surgery unless it is life-threatening.

Why I avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries

Three years after my bladder cancer, I was diagnosed with a meningioma brain tumor. There were no warnings or signs of impending trouble. I was pumping gas at a truck stop. I remember putting my credit card in the pay slot and waking up in an emergency room with my family gathered around and lots of tears. The tumor was non-cancerous, and the surgery went fine. The problem came after the surgery when I was given some form of Oxycodone or something like it. I am a large man, and I assume the nurse thought I would need a bit more medication to be effective. The short version is, I spent the next several hours hallucinating and in absolute terror. To this day, I will not take any medication unless my wife gives it to me and I refuse any surgery that is not life-saving.

So here I am at my urologist, and the first two remedies for my incontinence are off the table. Being the naive soul that I am, I inquire, “What else is available?”

“Adult diapers”

He said it as though it were as simple as asking for cream in his coffee. No warning. No friendly banter. Just a simple two words, “adult diapers.” He asked if I had any other questions, and finding that I did not, shook my hand and told me he would see me next year.

I remembered a recent ad on TV with some ex-quarterback saying he used such and such brand and they were great. I wondered if my surgery fears were really worthwhile. Maybe the surgery would be a better option. No! I was more worried about surgery than I could overcome. I thought about how much of my dignity cancer had eroded. Most of all, I thought about how tired I was having damp underwear.

I did my research and found products that worked for me

I did some research and found adult pull-ups. Disposable underwear with an absorbent layer. If you ever have the need, I highly recommend staying away from the store brands if possible. The quality is not the best and neither is the absorbency. That said, if they are the only option for whatever reason, be aware of their shortfalls and use them. If you are able to, use a medical-grade product. The results are far more comfortable.

My greatest hurdles have been mental

With so much of my cancer journey, the greatest hurdles have been mental. The pull-ups work great. My anxiety about getting to the bathroom or having an accident have been alleviated. I no longer have to panic if I am somewhere unfamiliar or in a vehicle and the “need” strikes. Physically, the problem is solved, but mentally, the challenge is much greater.

Getting over worrying about what others will think

Mentally, the challenge is about dignity and perception and the dreaded, “What will people think?” monster. Bladder cancer is south of the comfortable discussion line. Any conversation or trouble below-the-belt or bathroom-related is embarrassing. Why? More importantly, why do I allow myself to feel self-conscious? This article is my fight song. I offer it to any of you who read it to let it be your fight song as well.

Take care of your needs

I am surviving and thriving and whatever I need to accomplish that is what I will use. I cast off any societal baggage and claim my freedom to rise above cancer and all of its attempts to rob me of my self-worth and dignity. I heartily encourage you to do the same! Use products that make your life better. Take care of your needs, and if that makes someone uncomfortable, then let them carry that baggage alone. It is theirs, not ours, and we are carrying enough. Free yourself from any preconceived notions of what should be or not be. I have an opportunity to pull the dark curtain away from the conversation about this disease, and so do you. The monster under the bed only had power until we shine a light onto it. Shine your light and enjoy dryness.

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