I’m a 59-year-old woman, and I genuinely love my life. I have a great family, am in fairly good health, and love taking my dog for long walks. I go on frequent trips with my husband (I love traveling!) and am an avid cook. Overall, my life is pretty great. But it wasn’t always this way.
For years, I struggled with incontinence. I had experienced bladder leaks for a short time in my 30’s after I had kids, but that went away within the first several months after they were born and I chalked it up to one of those things that just happens with childbirth.
As my kids got older and I started experiencing menopause symptoms, the pesky leaks came back. At first, it was just a trickle here or there – nothing a light pad couldn’t handle. But as the years ticked by it slowly got worse. The trickle became a stream, and then it finally got so bad that I couldn’t leave the house without packing a change of clothes, “just in case”. The pads I’d been using no longer helped.
I started staying in more, saying no to my friends when they invited my husband and me over for dinner. I didn’t want to stray too far from the comfort of my own home, for fear I wouldn’t be able to find a bathroom easily. I was constantly worried about having a leak in public. Even my work suffered, as I shied away from bigger projects that would require more travel.
I was becoming more and more depressed and was a shell of the woman I used to be. Still, I was too ashamed to bring up my bladder leaks with my doctor, and I hid what I was going through from most of my close friends and extended family. What finally tipped the scales was when I skipped out on Mom’s Weekend at my daughter’s college. I just couldn’t bring myself to go and risk having an accident, though I desperately wanted to be there making memories with her.
I decided then that I would stand on the sidelines no longer. I started doing some research on my own and came across the NAFC website. It provided me with so much information, I almost didn’t know where to start. I began educating myself on bladder leaks and learned that many women suffer years later from trauma that may have occurred during childbirth. And, menopause, which I had just gone through, can also play a huge role.
I read about all the treatment options – I hadn’t known so many existed beyond just wearing pads – and also about the different types of absorbent products you can buy to help with leaks. Turns out those are pretty specialized for specific occasions too. I realized I had been doing everything wrong. And yet, even with all this new information, I was still hesitant to talk to my doctor. What would he say to me, a 50 something woman who wets her pants? It was just so embarrassing to think about.
I finally turned a corner and found the courage I needed when I stumbled upon the NAFC message boards. What a relief to find so many people like me who also suffer from leaks. I had no idea it was so common. I spent days reading through the posts of other people, hearing their struggles which so closely mirrored mine. I sympathized with their feelings of despair and found hope in the stories of those who have overcome their bladder leaks.
I finally realized that if I wanted to live the life I envisioned for myself, I needed to take some action. I made an appointment to talk to my doctor and grew more and more anxious as it grew closer.
The day of my appointment, I was a nervous wreck. I couldn’t imagine how he would react or how I would feel admitting to someone that I was living with bladder leaks. But I worked up my nerve and when he finally walked into the exam room I shared with him what I had been going through. To my great surprise, he didn’t laugh, seem shocked, or brush me off. In fact, the only thing he did do was sympathize with me and tell me that I am far from the only one who has come to him with this problem. We talked through different treatment options (many I had read about on nafc.org) and landed on a medication to try. He even recommended a couple of absorbent brands to try while my medication took time to kick in.
I can’t tell you the relief and joy I had when I left his office. I felt like I finally had a plan in place to fix my bladder leaks and, more importantly, I felt empowered for taking charge of my health and my life. From that day on I vowed I would not let a health condition claim control over me.
It’s been 2 years since that appointment. It wasn’t always easy – the initial medication I tried didn’t really help, and I cycled through a few options before finally finding Interstim, which has worked amazingly well for the past year. Through it all, the NAFC message boards have been a constant source of inspiration, courage and hope for me. I don’t think I would have made it through without them.
I cannot recommend the National Association For Continence enough. I’m not sure where I would be now if I hadn’t found the website and the NAFC message boards. During some of my darkest times, the people there offered me hope that another existence was possible. I honestly don’t think I could have done it without them.
If you have within your means to support this amazing organization, please do so this season. I know I plan to.
Vicki N., Bristol, Mass.