There is an amazing number of icky things our bodies can do to us and they seem to increase as we get older.
In general, we don't talk about this stuff but since my pancreatic cancer diagnosis and Whipple procedure nine months ago, any embarrassment I felt about discussing pee and poop is gone.
It was the post-surgery nurses and doctors who taught me all about that acceptance and, in time, ease with the topic. On the first morning I was lucid following the surgery, a nurse popped into my room and with a big smile on her face asked, “Have you pooped yet today?”
A little later, another asked, “Have you farted yet?” And another minced no words at all: “Have you shit this morning?”
Healthcare professionals talk about pee and poop the way you and I discuss the weather. Over my 11 days on that post-op floor, I got used to their most frequent talking point and a good thing that is because since then they have never stopped.
As one nurse answered my question about all the poop and pee talk, when someone has had abdominal surgery, it is important afterward for them to know how well – or not – food is being processed as it moves through the patient's body.
So they don't just ask “if” but also want to know size, shape, color, density, etc. And these queries have continued long after my recovery from the surgery so that, like those nurses and doctors in the hospital and clinic, I'm as comfortable with it now as they are.
But that wasn't always so.
I first wrote about urinary incontinence in these pages back in 2009 because it had been plaguing me and I know that if it's my problem, so it is for many other people.
When I'd finished, it seemed to be a useful blog post but I couldn't bring myself to hit the “publish” button. It just wasn't something I was comfortable talking about in public and thought that was probably true for you too.
It took three days for me to work up the nerve to post the story and surprise, surprise – the response was quite large with a lot of readers recounting their leaky pipe problems, many of them with a great deal of humor. You can read that post here where you will also find some useful links to good information about dealing with urinary incontinence.
My own leaky pipe problem disappeared when I lost more than 40 pounds five or six years ago but that is not always a cure and now I have the problem all over again.
Since the surgery, I no longer have any warning when I need to pee. The urge comes on suddenly and it means NOW (as I had to learn the hard way). No waiting until I finish typing this sentence or being polite to wait until you finish telling me a story. If I don't go immediately, there will be a puddle.
A few days ago, I ran across a useful story at AARP with “10 things you didn't know about urinary incontinence”:
”For something so shrouded in secrecy, urinary incontinence affects a staggering number of people — a quarter to a third of men and women in the U.S., according to the Maryland-based Urology Care Foundation,” reports AARP.
“That’s not a third of seniors or a third of pregnant women. A third of all people, regardless of age or sex.”
Here are a few samples of the information compiled in the AARP piece. Go to the website for the full explanation of these and the other six items.
One Cause? Blame Winter
“Cold weather affects the bladder muscle by making it contract harder and sooner than it ordinarily would, even if the bladder is not full...”
Reducing Liquid Intake Won't Help
“Cutting down on your water can result in dehydration, constipation and even kidney stones — urine flushes out the bacteria in there — which will only worsen the symptoms.”
Botox for Incontinence is a Real Thing
“Botox has become an increasingly popular fix for incontinence — and if you’re like us, that news probably made you wince and ask, 'Wait, they want to put a needle where?'”
(Ronni here: Botox for this also has some serious side effects so if you are interested, do your research. Here is a start.)
Peeing in the Shower Might Help
“It sounds nuts (and more than a little disgusting), but there are health benefits to using a shower as your personal toilet, at least for women with incontinence.”
If medical fixes are not for you or behavior adjustments don't work, there are the growing numbers and types of incontinence products which I'll write about soon.
Meanwhile, feel free to discuss this in the comments below or anywhere else. After all, actors like Samuel L. Jackson and Kate Winslet have done so on television as has writer Stephen King, among others. Even I've learned to be at ease with it.