Just Relax…

I don’t think that telling anyone to relax has ever worked in the history of the world. I have plenty of stories that could prove this point but one in particular comes to mind.

Picture it, the last 4-5 years of my life, post-hysterectomy and menopausal. The uterus supports the bladder and once it is removed, the bladder is left to sag, all sad and lonely.

Before menopause, a steady supply of estrogen helps preserve the strength and flexibility of your supportive pelvic and bladder tissues. During perimenopause and menopause, your estrogen levels drop dramatically. This can cause your tissues to weaken. Low estrogen levels may also contribute to a weakening in muscular pressure around your urethra. Changes in hormone levels may also increase the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) during perimenopause and menopause.

So this is all terrifying and awful. Ever since my hysterectomy, I’ve had issues with urinary incontinence. A cough here, a sneeze there was all it would take. Squatting is a no go these days and that is perfectly fine with me because I detest doing squats for exercise. Waited a little too long to go to the bathroom? Shucks, sorry about your luck but you’re not going to make it in time.

So, after a particularly rough patch, I talked with my doctor, and we put in a referral with a specialist. Within a month I had an appointment and I nervously walked into the waiting room. A lovely older lady greeted me and her husband, the specialist, came out to fetch me.

We talked about my issues and he said needed to do an internal exam. He asked his wife to step into the room which was awkward. It has to be weird watching your husband explore the recesses of another woman’s vagina, palpating her belly to feel the bladder. To each their own I suppose.

His conclusion was that we needed testing done and he wanted me to undergo a Uro Dynamic test. He explained it as a simple procedure where a catheter was to be inserted into the urethra and some sort of test would be performed. It sounded easy although the thought of a catheter being shoved up my urethra sounded very uncomfortable. He assured me it wasn’t a painful procedure. So we booked the appointment.

As the appointment date drew near, I started to become anxious and contemplated cancelling it. Darren said it was the best way for us to get answers and find a treatment so that I could move forward. So, I kept the damn appointment.

I pull up to the building and feel anxious and queezy. I’m sweating. I take my time climbing the stairs to the third floor and my hand hovers over the doorknob to the office. Sigh…here goes nothing. The wife greets me warmly and calls for her daughter, the testing specialist, to come grab me.

We get into the room, and she asks me to disrobe and put on a gown. While undressing in private, I notice a bunch of catheters on a side table and note that she seems super organized for all of her patients for the day. This inspires confidence.

She comes back into the room and starts to explain the process to me.

First I’m going to insert a catheter into your urethra to empty your bladder. Sounds uncomfortable but ok.

Next, I’m going to insert a new catheter into your urethra. This is news to me. There was only mention of one catheter. I’m starting to crack. I can feel tears welling up in my eyes.

Finally, I’m going to insert a catheter into your bum (not the term she used). Wait now! I did not sign up for this! No one mentioned my bum! What purpose could this possibly serve??? She assures me that I can relax, that this is not painful at all and a necessary part of the procedure. Seeing that I’m on the verge of crying she lets me know that she can stop at any time.

Next, I’m going to use these 16 pieces of medical grade tape and tape the catheters (urethra and anus) to the inside of your leg. Excuse me, come again? You must have mumbled. I am not prepped for this. I did zero landscaping in the garden and I haven’t shaved my legs if you catch my drift. All I can picture is her pulling off the tape and hair and skin flying off my body.

Once we have you all taped up, I’m going to get you to walk over to that funny toilet over there and that’s where we’re going to conduct the testing. You want me to walk…with catheters all up in there and sit on a toilet in front of you? Oh hell no.

I’m a mess. But we get through the insertion of all the tubes and yes, it was extremely uncomfortable and the bum one did hurt a bit. So now I’m all taped up and hobble over to the toilet. She hooks up the bladder catheter to an IV bag and proceeds to fill my bladder to varying levels of fullness.

Cough for me please. This is to see if I leak. Which I do.

You’re completely full now, can you hold your bladder? Nope, I let loose and have no control over it.

This whole scene is incredibly embarrassing, sitting on a toilet while someone watches you pee. Demoralizing.

After 15 minutes, the testing is complete. Now comes for the worst part she explains. The ripping of the tape and tubes. She assures me that she gets a good hold on the catheters and rips everything out at once. Well that sounds fantastic. I’m looking her in the eyes and she’s looking at me waiting for me to give her the go ahead.

Just relax. You need to relax.

I give her a quick nod and she yanks everything, and I’ve just gotten a half Brazilian wax for free. I breathe quickly and my eyes are watering. We’re done. I can get dressed and they’ll call me with the results in a few days. I am traumatized.

The following Monday I get the call from the specialist, and I have both stress and urge incontinence. There are different types of treatments that we can try.

I can be fitted with a pessary, a removable ring that is inserted into the vagina to hold up the bladder. It needs to be fitted in the specialists office and then I would have to remove it to clean it. It sounds uncomfortable.

I can try a laser therapy that costs $3000.00 which my insurance does not cover. I would need 3 treatments before any improvement in my symptoms. Not an option.

I can have surgery, have a net put in to hold up the bladder. It’s effective in most cases but am I willing to do another big surgery? How much time off work would I need to take?

Or I can just wear adult diapers or pads. Sigh.

So, to date, I haven’t made a decision. Do I live with this reality and just wear a diaper like a baby? Is this really ruining my life? I suppose it could be. All I know is, if someone tells me to relax before another procedure I’m going to haul ass out of the building.

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