Generally speaking, I don’t feel my age. I think young, act young and am told that I look about 10 years younger than I am.
So I’m not sure I can even explain my embarrassment when a few years ago, I began developing an incontinence problem. I felt like my life was ruined.
For women, incontinence isn’t all that unusual. Usually, it’s a matter of a weakening of the pelvic muscles brought on by aging and child birth that create the problem. For those women, it’s a problem of leakage, usually in high stress situations like when you sneeze or cough. And that is bad enough. But for some of us, it is so much worse.
I have multiple sclerosis, a disease which impacts your neurological functions and about three years ago, before I turned 40, one of the side effects of my MS was the development of incontinence, mostly urinary but on occasion bowel incontinence as well.
It was humiliating and aggravating. Who wants to smell like urine all the time? I certainly didn’t want to constantly wear a maxi pad or panty shield and Depends were completely out of the question, but I suddenly had to plan everything around proximity to a bathroom.
Going out to dinner? Choose the chair with the easiest access to the restroom. Grocery shopping? Learn where every bathroom in every store you visit is.
See the problem with urinary incontinence is that, at least for me, it included a sudden urge to go and if I didn’t follow that urge immediately, and sometimes even if I did, I would be unable to stop the urine flow. Most of the time, it was just a dribble. Enough to make me personally uncomfortable and create that smell.
Other times, it was a bladder busting flood that made toddlers in the midst of potty training look controlled.
I stopped going places that didn’t have multiple, easily accessible restrooms. I knew the location of every fast food restaurant bathroom in town, so I could stop in a hurry. I was humiliated that before I was even 40 my body was betraying me in such a heinous manner.
Going to the movies, almost always required a mid-movie potty break.
And, I tried everything that I could think of to control the issue myself. I stopped enjoying alcohol and caffeine, things that can stimulate the bladder. Carbonated beverages and spicy foods were off limits too.
My sex life slowed to almost nothing because of the humiliation of needing to stop in the middle to use the restroom or risk wetting my bed. I stopped getting a good night’s sleep as I needed to get up frequently to use the bathroom.
My enjoyment of life plummeted.
Then, last spring, I finally admitted to my health care provider just how bad it had gotten. I was frequently suffering from urinary tract infections or bladder infections, brought on mostly due to the leakage. I wanted my life back.
I had mentioned previously that I had some incontinence problems, but I never fully elaborated, embarrassed even to tell her all the details. Instead, I suffered in silence.
You know what the problem with suffering in silence is? You might be missing a perfectly reasonable solution!
She gave me a sample of Detrol LA, a time-released incontinence medicine from Pfizer. She also gave me a prescription for the medicine. The sample lasted 7 days, one capsule per day. By the second day, I knew that this was a medication I wanted to take. After one day, I had dry panties for the entire day. After two days, I slept a full eight hours without needing to get up to run to the bathroom.
No more sleepy trips to the bathroom hoping that I wouldn’t trip over the cat in my rush to not wet myself. Sex without a nagging worry that I might have an accident. Life’s simple joys.
Detrol LA is not without its side effects, but for once the side effects were mild and I really could live with them. I have dry mouth, but since I no longer feel the need to restrict my fluid intake for fear of wetting myself, I can easily remedy the dry mouth.
The Detrol LA also mentions as possible side effect a dry cough. I have developed one, but it’s not bad and a humidifier in the house helps that.
The only two real downsides to Detrol LA are the cost and the need to take it at about the same time every day. On Sundays, when I prefer to sleep in, I find that the urgency returns until I take the medication, though it is not nearly as strong or as uncontrollable as it once was.
A single month of Detrol LA is about $150 and there is no generic alternative. We paid for one month and then went in search of Pfizer’s drug assistance plan. The income-based drug assistance plan helps people like me, who have no insurance, afford their monthly medications. The drug is shipped directly to my doctor’s office and I pick it up there. Pfizer sends it three months at a time, so it’s not even inconvenient to pick it up.
So being 40 and suffering from incontinence doesn’t have to mean suffering. There are solutions and Detrol LA is one of them.