Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Bladder and bowel control , the last taboo.

One of the greatest improvements in my quality of life since my operation has been the restoration of bladder control. No matter how effective the medication you use, or absorbent the pads that get you through the day (and night), it is fundamentally distressing to lose the control you acquired as a very young child.

In this day and age, talking about just about anything else is acceptable; Viagra adverts hit just about every email inbox; condoms are openly for sale by the till in the supermarket, but still we avoid discussing leaking bladders and bowels. Perhaps this will also change - at least continence pads have come out from behind the counter in the pharmacy and onto open display.

Yet put a group of people with MS together and eventually conversation will drift round to this topic. Various medications are discussed, along with their various side effects; the blessed relief many experience when they go to self-catheterisation; absorbency of differing brands of pads are debated, along with strategies on how to cope when "caught out" away from home. Because of the cultural taboos, many recently diagnosed feel somehow a failure when they first experience loss of control.

But they are not alone. This is one of the commonest and in many ways the most distressing effects of this sometimes literally shitty disease. Within that self-same group of MS patients, conversation gives way to laughter as different members top each others tales of public embarrassment.

Still, it has a deep and lasting effect on a person's quality of life. Travel and social activities may be curtailed. It may not be practical to work any longer. While some jobs and workplaces can be adapted, this is not always possible. From the check-out operator to the barrister in court, sudden departure is not really an option.

So, yes, my greatest benefit has not been in walking, but in regaining that which as adults we take so much for granted, control over my bladder once more.

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