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Patient Perspective: Why I Don’t Let Fecal Incontinence Impact My Life

It’s a hard thing to admit, but I’m finally ready to share my story about having fecal incontinence. For the past year, I’ve had accidental bowel leakage and it’s severely impacted my life, even if those around me don’t realize it. You’d never know it from looking at me. I’m a young(ish) Mom and very outgoing (some might even say outspoken!). I love spending time with my family and friends, going to sporting events, and entertaining in my home.

But after having kids, I found it increasingly harder to avoid bowel leaks.  My first accident happened in my own home (thank goodness), shortly after I had my last child. I had just gotten up to go to the bathroom when I felt a small trickle. I rushed to the toilet in horror and couldn’t believe that something like that would happen to me. I thought it was a fluke, and decided to brush it off. Until it happened again. The second time I had an accident, I was out to dinner. This time, I knew it was coming and even though I raced to the bathroom as quickly as possible, I didn’t make it. I was completely mortified and had to pretend that I was sick just so my husband and I could escape the restaurant quickly.

I told my husband what was going on and expected him to recoil, but he was so supportive and understanding. For a while, I hid out in my own home. I raced to the toilet if I felt even the slightest twinge of having to go, for fear that my bowels would fail me again. Most of the time I made it, but I feel ashamed that wasn’t always the case – I definitely had some accidents.

I finally decided I needed to see a doctor. I hadn’t been out of the house in weeks, just hoping it would get better with time. I was so worried about having another accident, nervous about lingering odors, and terrified that people would find out. After all, I live in a small, midwestern town, where everyone knows everyone. If another accident like the one in the restaurant happened again, there’s no doubt my secret would be out.  And everyone would find out about it.

So, I worked up my courage and went to see my doctor. After several tests, he determined that I had likely suffered some muscle damage from giving birth and that is what was causing my bowel accidents.  He gave me some recommendations for absorbent pads to help protect me from leaks, then he referred me to a physical therapist who worked with me to increase my muscle strength.  After 3 months of physical therapy sessions I finally saw some improvements.  I’m hoping that with more work I’ll get back to normal and stop the bowel leaks all together. If not, my doctor has also brought up something called sacral neuromodulation as an option.

I’m happy I brought up my bowel condition with my doctor. As embarrassing as it was to talk about, I think it would have been even more embarrassing to be known as the girl around town who has those types of accidents. I feel like I can live my life again, enjoy my kids, and no longer worry about leaks.

If you suffer from this condition, believe me – I know how humiliating and depressing it can be.  But if I have any advice, it’s to talk to your doctor and get help. You may feel embarrassed at first, but in the end, it’s worth it to reclaim the life you had.

Lindsey M., Lincoln, Il

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