The catheter was a minor inconvenience – one that I have, many times in the past few months, wished I could get back. I never got up in the night to go to the bathroom pre-prostate surgery. For the first month after surgery, it was every two hours. Three months after surgery, I was down to one time a night. At first, I remembered the nighttime catheter with some wistfulness; I really would have liked a good night’s sleep.
At ten weeks, I suddenly noticed I was beginning to turn a corner. I could stand up without peeing, if I really concentrated. I could hold it and walk to the bathroom and have a pee like a normal guy again, and it was thrilling. Finally, I had a break from the constant dribbling. What brought on this change were three visits with physiotherapists who specialize in dealing with incontinence issues.
Although I had been kegeling like a madman for weeks, it turns out that I was doing it incorrectly. The physiotherapist performed an internal exam and had me kegel while she determined the strength of my pelvic floor muscles.
This was disconcerting. I was lying there, with a woman using her finger up my rectum to test the muscle strength and talking me through how to do the exercises correctly. Her head was right beside my knee, and we carried on a conversation like nothing else was going on. It was surreal, but it’s the reason I got to where I’m at in terms of control today.
What a fantastic resource the physiotherapists are. When you’re told how to kegel, it seems easy, but, like any other exercise, it’s much more effective when done correctly.
The physiotherapists are new to the Urology Centre, and I was one of the first people to go through sessions with them. It’s golden – worth every bit of discomfort a person might feel about getting an internal exam. I’m to the point now that if I met the Physio. on Second Avenue and she wanted a look, I’d drop my drawers right then and there. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t. But the thing is, privacy or embarrassment doesn’t matter – the only thing that matters is that these are health care professionals who have a real positive impact on your life.
Once I started to turn that corner, everything changed. As the days progressed, I had more and more control. I can now even control the ‘biggies’ when my bladder is full. I’m not free from incontinence by any means; I still use about four pads a day. But when you consider that at first I was using one an hour or so, four pads over twenty-four hours is a major improvement. I still pee when I cough, sneeze or exert myself without focusing first. I still have accidents. But I’m improving.
The improvement isn’t constant, either. I’ll be having a great day and then the next day will be three steps back. But the bad days are starting to get a bit fewer.
I found out from one of the physiotherapists that the average time for men to gain some sort of significant continence is about four months or so. I wish I had known that earlier on; I think it would have maybe eased some of the demoralizing days somewhat. I needed to know that that light at the end of the tunnel was sunshine, rather than the light reflecting off a puddle of urine.
And speaking of urine: I am amazed at how much urine the human body can produce in a day. It’s mind-boggling – the darn stuff just keeps coming out, whether you’ve been drinking a lot of liquids or not. We’ve thrown out some garbage cans full of pads that were pretty heavy!
Most men recover a fair degree of control, and by the end of a year you can tell pretty well where you’ll be from then on. My focus going forward is to concentrate on doing my exercises religiously. I took a week off and took a few steps back, so I’m going to focus on doing them every day. I need to learn to focus on the times when I exert myself in any way and try to learn to control them. All recovery now is exercising, focusing, keeping healthy and going for regular checkups. I have prostate cancer, and even though I feel great and my prognosis is good, it can come back, so I need to be vigilant.