Dependent on Depends!
Last updated: May 2020
I’m in the early stages of recovery from a laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. My surgery was on April 16th, 2018. As I continue to have less discomfort, sleep better and get stronger every day, my focus is more on the most immediate side effect: incontinence. It’s one thing to think about what it might be like to be incontinent, even to hear about it from friends who have experienced it, but it's another thing altogether to be incontinent.
I had my catheter removed on the morning of April 23rd, one week after surgery. I had already purchased a package of Depends and took one with me to the appointment. So I was prepared when I immediately started leaking. I was asked to come back for an ultrasound in the afternoon to determine if I was retaining urine, but I knew, from the amount that I started leaking and the lack of bladder pressure, that retention was not a problem. I was right.
My new recovery routine
As I write this, I have been leaking and depending on Depends for ten days. At first, I was using about six or seven a day, but I’ve been able to reduce that just by establishing a routine for changing them. I try to go to the bathroom every hour or so, especially if I have been sitting for a while. I find I can control the leaking until I can get to the bathroom and release urine into the toilet which makes each brief last longer.
At night, since I’m prone and gravity is not at work, I’m now at the point where I wake up twice from bladder pressure, go to the bathroom and return to bed with a dry brief. So from six or seven briefs a day I’m down to four or five and I hope that will change as I gradually begin to regain some control. I might even experiment with a shield and my normal briefs at night, just to feel more comfortable. The Depends are great, but they don’t breathe well and I get warm and damp just from body heat.
Following my doctor’s instructions, I started Kegeling on April 30th. For this first week my daily routine is five quick contractions followed by ten three second contractions, and then another five quick contractions, twice a day. Each week the repetitions will go up and the time will increase. There is no guarantee that Kegeling will work, but there’s enough evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, that it’s worth the effort. Plus it’s good to have a discipline that adds some hope to the recovery equation.
This has impacted daily life
As a very active sixty-nine-year-old, I struggle with forced inactivity. I brought home post-surgery instructions that included a lot of “do nots,” and I’ve been good about obeying them: short walks, no heavy lifting, no walking my sixty pound dog on her leash, limited caffeine intake, no spicy foods, no alcohol (easy for me since I don’t drink), etc. The hardest restriction for me was psychological than physical I didn’t want to be out in public wearing a Depends brief, uncontrollably leaking urine. Of course no one knows unless I tell them, but I know, and I felt embarrassed and a little humiliated.
Finding my new normal
But starting on May 1st I decided I had to act as if I was no different than anyone else and just live as much of my normal life as possible: meeting with friends for lunch, going to the movies, attending my book group meetings, scheduling social events, volunteering. I can’t go rock climbing or backpacking, but I can engage in the other aspects of life that give me satisfaction. I struggle at times with having too much time on my hands and feeling unproductive, but I have the luxury of being retired with no pressing responsibilities, so I have to accept this temporary condition and make the most of it. It’s a one-day-at-a-time commitment.
My wife still works four days a week, and so it’s up to me to stay productive around the house and in our yard, do some grocery shopping, prepare some meals, just as I have since I retired. I can’t use my recovery or my incontinence as an excuse not to do my part, as long as I don’t overdo it and set myself back. We’ve purchased tickets for a play and a couple of concerts in the next two months or so, and as soon as I’m ready we’ll travel two hours south to visit our youngest son and his family sometime in May. In June we’ll be babysitting our youngest granddaughter for five days. She’ll be ten months old when that happens. Can’t wait! So even though I accept some restrictions, I’m not going to give in to boredom or self-pity. Not my style.
Gratitude, always gratitude
I can’t accurately predict what’s going to happen over the next few months, but I’m cancer-free, a big relief for me, my family and my friends. I’m fortunate to have a wide circle of support in my community, a lot of people who are ready to help in any way they can. That includes the men in the Prostate Cancer Support Group I meet with once-a-month. Each morning when I awake and each night before I go to sleep I try to remember to be grateful for my life, even if I have to wear Depends for a while!
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