Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Paper Trail

A long time ago when I would see a commercial for adult incontinence products, I would think to myself that if I got to the point where I could not control my basic bodily functions, I wanted someone to put me out of my misery. I was thinking that time wouldn't occur until I was fairly old and senile. How wrong I was!

When I started describing the weird symptoms I was having to various doctors, there was one thing I left out. It was a problem that was too awkward to discuss. I found myself having to urinate frequently and desperately, but I didn't tell anyone. Perhaps, it was just part of getting older (although I was in my mid twenties at the time). If I had described all my symptoms, the numbness in my feet and the urination problems, the doctors might have looked for MS sooner. I actually was relieved (no pun intended) to discover after my diagnosis that bladder problems in MS are fairly common.

With this knowledge, I dutifully wrote down every time I went to the bathroom for a week. I shared my record with the neurologist and asked if he thought I was going too much. I honestly didn't know what was considered "normal". He did say that my schedule seemed a bit excessive and prescribed a bladder medication that would relax the overactive muscle. It helped with the urgency and frequency, but it had a disturbing side effect, dry mouth. That's right, the medication makes me thirsty and causes me to drink more. The wonders of modern medicine.

Once I had calmed down my bladder, I still needed a little extra insurance to avoid an embarrassing accident. At first, I tried incontinence pads which are like maxi pads on steroids. They really felt bulky between my legs and the adhesive seemed to stick everywhere except my underwear. I didn't want a do-it-yourself Brazilian wax. There was one other choice: protective underwear. Think of them as pull-ups for grownups. They are made of paper, but they are far less bulky than the incontinence pads and aren't really noticeable under clothing.

I actually do not have an accident that often. At least for now, I have control of my bodily functions. When I don't make it in time, it has more to do with my limited mobility. I can't wait until the last minute to get to the bathroom. I remember reading an article about how people with MS were able to handle the aging process better because they had to deal with problems earlier than most people. They learned to accept needing a cane, walker or a wheelchair and even having to deal with the incontinence problems. I guess this means that I won't end up as a cranky old woman; I'm already there. What can you expect from a person who can get a paper cut from her underwear?

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