Embarrassment Over Incontinence Can Be Overcome with Support
Dear Carol: I’m a 65-year-old man who had prostate surgery for cancer that left me incontinent. While I’m certainly grateful that the surgery stopped my cancer, I’m really embarrassed by my incontinence. I hate even doing things with my buddies because I feel like a baby who hasn’t been toilet trained. How do I learn to be happy about my new post-cancer life? Classic cars are my thing and I want to join the guys at the car club while we restore them, but I just can’t make myself go away from the house. My wife says that I just have to get on with it, but how do I do that? – CM
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Dear CM: I’m sorry about your struggle. Incontinence is a hard thing for any adult to adjust to, but your interest in restoring classic cars could be a terrific motivator for you.
Society’s problem, of course, is that we grow up feeling that not being able to manage one’s bladder and/or bowels is babyish. It doesn’t help that many people were punished as children if they wet their pants or had a bowel accident. The reality is that many adults of varying ages have bladder and bowel control problems for any number of reasons, most of which are health-related and beyond their control. Stroke damage, spinal surgery, as well as any number of diseases come to mind.
Women seem to find incontinence issues annoying but a common part of life, especially after childbirth. Men, however, seem to have a harder time because they take it as an assault on their manhood. The reality is that needing protection is actually quite common for men, as well. They just don’t talk about it.
For example, a gentleman whom I will call Frank initially contacted us through Egosan’s Facebook page. The conversation eventually moved to email as he continued to express his anguish about his post-stroke incontinence. Frank said that every time he puts on his pull-ups, he’s “crying inside” due to humiliation about being unable to control his bladder. He says this makes him feel like a baby. Our conversation eventually led to suggestions and web links that could take him to non-profit incontinence and stroke support websites. Just knowing that Frank felt so much better after talking with us was gratifying.
You are facing an adjustment time, so try not to be hard on yourself. I’m assuming that you’ve talked with your doctor to see if there is anything that can be done medically to help you with your incontinence. If not, then do so. If he says no, but doesn't offer ongoing support, then your next step might be to join an online support group. Egosan has one on Facebook simply called Incontinence Support Group.
The main idea is for you to refuse to let inconvenience stop you from doing what you want to do. Once you’ve talked to others who live with incontinence problems, you might find the courage to be open with your car buddies, as well. You could even find out that you aren’t the only one in the group with this problem.
Additionally, if you find the right products, you’ll be able to get on with your life. Let us know how else we can help.
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