Nobody told me.
Nobody told me that the pelvic radiation would damage my sphincter.
Nobody told me that pelvic radiation would damage my sphincter …. Badly.
It was, of course, in the literature … but nobody told me that I was going to have this long-lasting AND DEFINITIVE side-effect. The information sheet touched on it. “Possible side effects”, it stated. Possible bowel and bladder problems.
It “should’ve” been written: You will have varying degrees of bowel and bladder incontinence. You will have.
Damn you cancer!
I haven’t had too much of a problem with bladder control. I have had some leakage when I am very active. This is called STRESS INCONTINENCE. And, I can’t feel the leakage so I wear a little pad to catch any dribble. Not a big deal.
The bowel issue was completely different and I was not emotionally prepared for the degree of humiliation that I experienced.
- Disposable underwear.
- Whatever you want to call them. I called them embarrassing.
After the emotional trauma of all that, I began researching. I had no clue as to the number of people going through that exact same thing. That both shocked and saddened me.
IT NEEDS TO BE TALKED ABOUT. In fact, this article is being written because of the prompting and encouragement of a reader and fellow anal cancer warrior.
So, what’s a girl (or guy) to do?
First, please understand that you are not alone. I am learning that nearly everyone that has had pelvic radiation experiences some degree of incontinence. So, whether or not people are sharing this, it is occurring.
Secondly, places like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, etc. carry incontinence products for a reason …. because they are needed. If there was no demand for them, the retail market would not carry them.
Thirdly, the issues can improve over time. Mine have. Kegel exercises are beneficial.
Here is a link to a site with exercises for strengthening pelvic floor muscles.
When I first began entertaining the thought of incontinence products, this is what I had envisioned:
The thought of pulling those up around my hips was depressing and traumatizing.
Below are some options that I found to be more appealing:
…. for Women ….
Silhouette (by Depends) Lacy Lady (by Tena)
Washable & reusable (by WearEver) Incontinence pants (by Always Discreet)
…. and for the Men ….
Real Fit (by Depends) Protective men’s briefs (by Tena)
Classic briefs (by WearEver)
After the initial shock, the peace of mind that came, was worth it. And, I would imagine that this is better than having a colostomy bag. So …. I took a deep breath, pulled up my big girl panties, and went on with life ………….
“Don’t be afraid; Just believe” — Mark 5:36b