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.
Having incontinence can be a huge burden, not only for the person who has it, but for their loved ones, too. I feel lucky that for the past several years my husband has stood by me not only as my confidante, but also as my partner in the battle against incontinence. He is my rock and I can’t imagine going through this with anyone else.
At first I didn’t tell him about the leaks. We had been married for 34 years, so you’d think there wouldn’t be any secrets. But the thought of him knowing that I wet my pants sometimes just felt wrong. What if he found it disgusting? What if he just didn’t understand my problem? I should have known better. After a year of thinking I was being super secretive, he finally approached me to let me know that he knew what was happening. I hadn’t been so sneaky after all. I broke down in front of him, scared of what he must think of me, but he looked me straight in the eye and said “Sue, we’ll fight this together,” and from that day on we have.
He would remind me to bring incontinence supplies when we were heading out. He urged me to make an appointment with a doctor. And he did tons of research about bladder leaks in women – the possible causes, the different options for treatment.
He even went with me to my doctor’s appointment, and I have to say he was even more helpful than I was for a lot of it. He asked all the right questions and pushed for options. I was in awe of this man I had married. I couldn’t imagine having had those difficult and embarrassing conversations with my doctor on my own and was so happy that he was there to support me and help me through it.
When I started treatment (something called sacral neuromodulation) he went with me to get the device implanted and learned all the ins and outs of how it worked. He reminded me to make my follow-up appointments, and he pushed me to write down any issues I was having along the way so I wouldn’t forget to mention them to my doctor.
But for all the practical help he’s been, nothing compares to how he’s been there for me emotionally. He’s the one that I go to when I need to talk. He knows how hard this has been on me. And he knows that it’s not easy for me to feel comfortable going out with friends. Even though I’m sure that some of them have the exact same problems that I do, that doesn’t stop me from being terrified of someone finding out that my bladder leaks. He helps me to see that there’s no shame in being human and that this is just a medical condition like anything else.
Plus, he doesn’t let me sulk (which is something I’m prone to do). As soon as he sees me feeling sorry for myself, he gets me right up and takes me out for a walk with the dog, a light tennis match (we’ve played together for years) or a quick bite to eat. He shows me that my life is bigger than incontinence and that I have the power to choose what I want from it. Incontinence does not have to be in charge.
I don’t know what I would do without him. If you have someone close to you and are scared to tell them about your bladder leaks, my advice is to just do it. Trying to keep it a secret is far more stressful than just getting it out in the open.
And if you’re lucky, like me, it may be just the thing that helps to push you toward a new beginning.