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three adult diapers

Dependent on Depends!

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.

Post-surgery incontinence

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 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.

Impact on my daily living

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

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!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The ProstateCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Gensac123
    9 months ago

    This is such a reassuring message to read. I’m in very early days after removal of catheter after my prostectomy and wasn’t prepared for the level of incontinence I’d be experiencing . Far more than leaking . I’m using the bathroom every two hours at night and all the time during the day, so like Will not able to go far. But so heartened to hear a positive approach and that things will gradually improve with life eventually becoming more normal . Still awaiting pathology on removed prostate but fingers x I’ll too be cancer free . Thanks again

  • Gensac123
    9 months ago

    Thanks for further reassuring message Will and for info on more up and coming articles .It’s obviously going to be a journey. I’m preparing for it both mentally and physically and now I know what to expect, I will work hard at it. It’s great to have this forum and hear of other guys experiences along the prostate cancer journey . Feeling much more positive today about my recovery and future Thanks and Good LucK

  • Will Jones moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hello @gensac123. So glad that my article provided some reassurance. Our early experiences are quite similar. Now, at almost eight months, I can report that things have much improved. I’m still incontinent, still kegeling, but down to one or two light shields per day and none at night. In fact, I can go hours during the day and evening without a shield as long as I’m not exercising. You can follow my progress in subsequent articles, including one that should be published soon about physical therapy and kegeling. Good luck with the pathology report. My fingers are crossed for you!

  • spanky327
    1 year ago

    Your article is great and very encouraging to me. I am in pretty much in the same place and can relate to your comments regarding a need to “get back to normal” in spite of the changes. I have quickly figured out the less I focus on the incontinence, the less of an issue it becomes. Thanks

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks, Spanky. Just this morning my wife and I went for a challenging hike near to where we live. I was wearing a guard. We were out for over two hours and while I leaked some, it didn’t interfere with the pleasure of the experience. When we got home I showered and changed to a lightweight shield for an afternoon of house cleaning, playing the guitar and writing. The new normal, at least for now. It’s working for me.

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 year ago

    A positive attitude is the key. Have to keep doing what we enjoy. This morning I hiked six gorgeous miles on a trail in the Montana de Oro State Park in California, right beside the Pacific Ocean. Wearing a guard, of course, but I’m not thinking about it much in those surroundings. Improving steadily, a day at a time, but more importantly, loving my life along the way.

  • acambridge
    1 year ago

    Guys it just takes time on the leaking. I had my surgery on December 18, 2017. I had my catheter for 3 weeks after my surgery. I didn’t like this!! I am 70 still working as an Insurance Agent with two assistance in an outside of my home in an office. I sworn not to let this change my life style because I liked my life. I am very active fish Bass Tournaments almost every weekend besides all of the activities around the house and yard and work. The first few weeks after surgery were tough Depends and a pad. Went threw several pads per day. Nights were better because you had no activity. But did get up to go to the bathroom several times in the night and still do. I choose to get a condom catheter for fishing and that was a trip. But it worked and I had to change it a few times because it came un stuck from you know what. Then I started with just a pad and depends and today just a pad. With all the up and downs, bending over to pick up a fishing rod or snap the trolling motor down was a treat. But I was bound and determined to not let this get me down. Just keep doing and ignore the side effects. I drink coffee every morning as I have always done, I also have several cocktails as I make diner or BBQ with wine at diner. I do go to the bathroom more today but that is so I don’t leak and the leaking has pretty much subsided. Oh it’s still there but not much guys. It took 6 months for it to really slow down to a crawl but it started to slow in a month or so after the surgery. I did so many kegals I forget how many. But life is good today! I believe much of this is a mind set. I always tell other Insurance Agents out with “Stinkin Thinkin”!! Be Positive this is just a test anyway.

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 year ago

    Sorry I didn’t respond sooner to your reply, @acambridge. I admire your insistence on continuing to live your good life. It’s the only way to go. Any improvement in the last two months?

  • ninaw moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi @acambridge, just wanted to say thanks for sharing this encouragement! Your experiences are extremely helpful especially for guys at the beginning stages who may believe the leaking will never end. If you want to add your two cents to any other questions, or share a whole blog story, I’m sharing some links here:
    Q&As: https://prostatecancer.net/q-and-a/
    Stories: https://prostatecancer.net/stories/.
    Really appreciate you being here! – Nina, ProstateCancer.net Team

  • dtj49er
    1 year ago

    My radical laparoscopic robotic prostatectomy was two weeks ago today with my catheter removed six days ago. I am so grateful to have my cancer removed from my body. I, too, am dependent on Depends with little control of my urine. I feel like a little boy standing at the toilet trying to get a little flow started. It usually happens after I pull up my Depends and walk away. I do my Kegel exercises faithfully. I know it will take time for full recovery. I refuse to play the housebound invalid. I go shopping and out to dinner with my wife. I haven’t leaked in public yet. I dream of the day when I can rejoin my Sierra Club group and go on a ten-mile hike in the mountains.

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 year ago

    I love your attitude, dtj49er. I’m a few weeks ahead of you in my recovery, but I decided early on to live as normal a life as possible despite my incontinence. I’m happy to report that now, seven weeks after surgery, I’m seeing significant improvement. I’ve also been cleared by my doctor to go back to my normal exercise routine, which includes those long hikes you mention. I’m living your future and it looks very good!

  • dtj49er
    1 year ago

    Keep on hiking!

  • Richard Faust moderator
    1 year ago

    Keep working towards that dream of going on the mountain hike dtj49er. Having goals can be a great motivator for staying with a recovery plan. Sounds like you are off to a great start. Best, Richard (ProstateCancer.net Team)

  • Deemusicman
    1 year ago

    Great,,,I am two months post ,have pretty good control but wear a pad during the day and a full depends at night,..My situation is if I drink 3 coffees a day by evening I’m leaking almost every time I walk but ,I’m with you I am thankful for every day and every minute I’m blessed with,.I hope to retire November 15th this year a little early at 62 but I’ll manage,.. I do 3 sets of 10 kegels I’ve noticed dry mornings but I’m up still at night but I alsomdrink water off and on til 9 pm or later so it’s my fault,.. Good luck God bless.

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 year ago

    Dee, Sounds like you’re making good progress. I’m currently at one or two guards a day and a lightweight shield at night. I’ve cut back my coffee intake to one 8 oz. cup in the morning. Seems to help reduce leaking during the day. Less bladder irritation. I try to drink water regularly throughout the day to stay hydrated. I retired at 62 in 2011 and have had no regrets. Now that I’m feeling better post-surgery, I’m getting back to all of my regular activities. It’s a good life, even with the challenges!

  • ninaw moderator
    1 year ago

    That’s good to know, @richg. I’ve honestly heard nothing but good things, though I imagine, as with all things, there are differing opinions and experiences. Thanks for sharing this info! – Nina, ProstateCancer.net Team

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks Richg. I’ve been kegeling twice a day for over a month. This week I’m on 20 quick contractions, 25 10 second contractions, 20 quick contractions. I’m beginning to notice a difference, which I’m sure is a combination of kegeling plus internal healing.

  • Richg
    1 year ago

    Just a note: you can NOT overdo Kegels so get your Kegels on.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    1 year ago

    Thanks for writing Richg. Sorry that it took longer for the incontinence to clear up, but it is helpful when people are willing to share what they have learned. Your example of not doing enough Kegel exercises may help others get motivated. Best, Richard (ProstateCancer.net Team)

  • ninaw moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi @richg, thanks for your input. Have you noticed a big improvement using them? – Nina, ProstateCancer.net Team

  • Richg
    1 year ago

    Well, I don’t remember when I actually started. I may have started prior to the catheter removal, but definitely immediately afterwards. On post op instruction sheet it stated you can not over do the exercises. To be honest I at times was inconsistent in doing them which may be the reason that my improvement took longer than I wished. In reviewing blogs the guys who were fanatical about doing them got the quickest and best results.

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