This story is a part of the National Association For Continence’s “Voices Of Incontinence” campaign, which shows, in patient’s own words, what it’s like to live with incontinence. Learn more about this campaign, watch the videos, read other stories, and find resources to manage bladder leaks here.
I’m 69 years old. My story starts 8 years ago when I first began seeing signs of bladder leakage. Like many women my age, I was not all that surprised. I knew that it was common to experience a leak here or there. But as they became more frequent, I started feeling scared that this was going to be something that I would have to address.
I first tried covering it up with menstrual pads. Ha! I thought they would do the trick and my neighbors wouldn’t have to see me in line at the grocery store with a pack of Depends. But they didn’t really work – I still experienced leaks when I wore them. So I went to the store early in the morning and bought a pack of absorbent products. They worked much better, but were bulky, and I felt strange wearing them.
Nevertheless, I continued on with my life, thinking that for now at least, this was my best option. I didn’t make an appointment with my doctor – I was too embarrassed to talk with him about it, despite having a been a patient of his for many years.
After a couple of years though, my leaks turned into gushes and I knew something had to be done. I finally mustered up the courage – it wasn’t easy at all – and told my doctor at my next appointment. I let him know that I had been having some accidents and wanted to talk about what I should do. His response shocked me.
“Oh, it’s normal for a woman your age to start having leaks. Just buy some absorbent pads or underwear to help you stay dry.”
Really? That was his best solution?
When I got home, I started doing a little research on my own. I didn’t realize how in the dark I had been. Did you know that there are different types of incontinence? I sure didn’t. And did you know that some treatments work better with different types of conditions? It was news to me. Most importantly, I learned that there are lots of different medications to treat bladder leaks, and if they don’t work, there are plenty of other treatments to try, too.
I felt completely at a loss. My doctor had been with me for over 12 years. I thought that he was supposed to be an expert, someone I could trust. But he brushed my problem aside, made me feel like my concerns were not important and that everything I was experiencing was to be expected. Not only that, he didn’t give me any education about my bladder leaks, or offer any real solution. I was livid.
I decided to look for a new doctor. On the recommendation of a friend, I made an appointment with a new practice and was able to get in within a month.
What a difference! My new doctor listened carefully to my concerns and empathized with me about bladder leaks. She also told me very definitively that, while they might be common in women my age, they are NOT normal, and that there were lots of things we could try to get the situation under control. I was so relieved that I could have cried.
Now it’s six months later, and I can’t believe how things have changed. She had me start physical therapy (imagine that, at my age!) and also started me on a medication to help control my leaks. She also gave me some great information about how to order absorbent products online so that I don’t have to buy them at my local store (for that, I was VERY appreciative).
Things still aren’t perfect, but they’re getting better. I have far fewer leaks than I used to, and my doctor tells me that she has even more treatments she’s keeping in mind in case these don’t work.
To anyone who feels they’re not being heard by their doctor, my advice is to find a new one! There are treatments out there that can work, and no one deserves to have their concerns dismissed by someone who is so antiquated or out of touch that they don’t regard bladder leakage as a condition to take seriously.