Can You Say Incontinence?

The first day the catheter came out, I was overjoyed and felt I had regained my freedom.

I was, as I soon discovered, wrong.

I decided I should have a glass of water and lie down for a half-hour or so. They tell you to drink ten glasses of clear liquids at least every day, and that it’s a good thing to lie down and let your bladder fill up at least once a day. That way you’ll have a full pee, and it’ll make for a healthier bladder.

Here was where all my kegeling exercises would come into play. I had done thousands of kegels prior to surgery and felt I had the exercise down pat, so filling up the old bladder and holding things back while I walked to the bathroom to void was no big deal. After a half-hour or so I needed to pee — the first time I’d felt the urge to pee in a while. So I tightened up my sphincter (the muscles in the lower abdomen that you use to keep control) and stood up.

Urinary incontinence happens at the worst times

Urinary incontinence happens at the worst times

Have you ever seen indoor rain?

I had no control whatsoever, and when the urine started gushing out I ran for the bathroom, leaving a trail of pee across the hardwood floor in the living room and the tile floor down the hallway to the bathroom. My underwear was soaked, as were the shorts I had been wearing.

I figured that was just an accident, and that I’d be able to control this by being more cognizant of my bodies’ needs. I needed to go more often. When I did that — although every single time I stood up, I peed — I made it to the bathroom and the pads I was wearing absorbed all the urine.

The next day, I decided to try again. This time, when I stood up, I grabbed onto the end of “Mr. Happy” and held the pee back until I got to the bathroom.

This part was amazing. I had the flow and power of a boy again, which is incredibly satisfying. My bladder empties so fast now that I don’t have enough time to enjoy the greatly increased flow. I got to the bathroom, opened the toilet and aimed at the water like I have forever, then let go and had a very enjoyable pee.

Only problem was that I aimed where I had for the past few years — the back of the bowl — because I was used to a reduced flow. I blasted pee off the top of the lid and all over the bathroom walls and floor. It was everywhere. As I cleaned up the mess, I was sad and happy at the same time — sad because I sprayed pee everywhere, and happy because I peed like a laser.

It’s not the major events, it’s the constant dripping that drives you crazy

It’s not the major events, it’s the constant dripping that drives you crazy

That has only happened one other time, after I was lying down. A storm hit and started spraying water through three open windows in the house. I jumped up to close the windows, and left a trail of pee from window to window and into the bathroom. I could not stop it no matter how hard I tried. By this time, I had learned to stay on the tile floor.

Oh, the irony. In trying to save us from getting water on the floor, I doused it with pee instead. Again, I got rags and cleaner and dealt with the mess.

Those episodes are quite frustrating and difficult, so my modus operandi very quickly became to pinch the end off until sitting on the toilet, then release and enjoy the feeling.
I kegel sixty times a day, and I try to kegel every time I stand up or cough, strain, bend over or exert myself in any way.

This is a difficult struggle for me. At times I have success at preventing peeing when I stand up, but for the most part I fail and a little bit comes out. Not much, but it happens just about every time.

Depends Guards are for maximum protection – you need these for the first few months!

Depends Guards are for maximum protection – you need these for the first few months!

When I’m out and about, I pee constantly. The pads absorb it, but I can tell you it’s disconcerting to be standing there, talking to a store clerk, while you’re peeing a bit. Its very discouraging and depressing for me, because I thought it’d be a lot easier to get control of things than it’s turning out to be.

Then I catch myself and remember that all I have is a little urinary incontinence problem that will probably go away entirely. Knowing there are people whose incontinence will never go away, or who have much worse problems than this, helps me to put and keep things in perspective.

I use Depends Shields for “light times”

I use Depends Shields for “light times”

It’s been six weeks since my surgery as I write this, and I am starting to get some semblance of control over minor incidents. Yesterday, I stood up twice in a row when I felt that my bladder was semi-full and managed to not pee. Some days, I use a half dozen pads; on others I use more than twice that. I still can’t get up from lying down to fill my bladder and get to the bathroom without pinching the end off.

Sometimes I feel like this is never going to get better, and I get depressed. At the start of this journey, I made the most jokes about peeing and incontinence. Now I don’t think they’re nearly as funny as I did then.

An acquaintance of mine called me the other day to ask how I was feeling and express his wish that I get better soon. Then he said that I had better not tell him I wear a diaper because he’ll use it to crush me in public whenever he can. I was furious at his insensitivity and lack of knowledge about how prostate cancer works.

I don’t wear diapers — they’re quite uncomfortable and hot for me. I wear pads that have a sticky strip that sticks to the inside of my underwear. They can absorb about a half-gallon from the looks of it, and they work very well. Actually, I have no idea how much they can absorb, but it’s quite a lot.

One of the things everyone tells you when you have your prostate removed is that you’ll need to wear pads for a while because you won’t be able to control your dribbles.

I’m told that the average amount of time before men turn the first major corner and start to realize some control is around four to four and a half months. I’m lucky — I’m a couple of months early. But honestly, it hasn’t made me a lot less frustrated.

Urinary incontinence isn’t a lot of fun, but it’s not the end of the world

Urinary incontinence isn’t a lot of fun, but it’s not the end of the world

Now, I can stand up from a chair and control it until I get to the bathroom almost every time — at least at the start of the day. Toward the end of the day, my muscles get tired and I’m less able to control things. Into the afternoon, I can handle a full bladder most of the time now, but not all that much in the evening. They don’t want you going to the bathroom a lot and would rather your bladder was mostly full before voiding, but that’s very hard to do at this point.

Even though I’m going through a really positive period in terms of control, I have had days with no urinary control at all, right from the time I get up in the morning.

You get used to all the peeing as the weeks go by. It actually becomes the focal point of your recovery, and your life, in many ways. Your control or lack of control dictates your social schedule and what you do with your day.

For instance, I know the location of every bathroom in every building I enter. I carry a “go bag” with extra underwear, pads and cleaning materials and extra shorts or pants, depending on what I’m wearing. I always wear black or dark shorts and pants. I haven’t worn blue jeans since my surgery. Everything is due to a lack of control.

But once you start to get some control, it’s as if a whole new world has opened up. I can go to a restaurant and not have any major accidents, although I’m not ready to try a movie yet. The feeling of accomplishment in getting up, holding it and making it to the bathroom is only beaten by the satisfying sound of being able to pee to the bottom of the bowl.

I’m coming up on three months since my surgery. I wear pads 24 hours a day still, although I can go from before bedtime to noon on just one of them now. I still pee a bit when I’m not focused. Later in the day, I pee whether I’m focused or not, but the pad usage has gone down from literally one an hour to about five or six a day on a normal day.

Things are looking up, and the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t look like reflected light off a pool of urine anymore.

About Murray Hill

A retired tech and gadget writer with weekly columns appearing in some of Canada's largest newspapers and on canada.com for over twenty years. His love of gadgets and tech is only surpassed by his love of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Manchester United.

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