Urinary Incontinence

Phil’s Story: Coping with Incontinence

I was diagnosed with a Gleason 10 tumor 3 years ago. I have undergone Lupron injections, DaVinci surgery, and because not all cancer was removed, 39 sessions of radiation.

As a result I am both incontinent and impotent. I would like to discuss how the incontinence issue has affected me, how I coped with it. Hopefully, I can help anyone who might be faced with this for the first time.

I found that of the 2 conditions, the incontinence problem really affected my quality of life more than the impotence issue. After my radiation sessions were completed, I had to use pads and sometimes an adult diaper with a pad to keep dry. I was using as many as 8 pads a day. Basically, I had to be aware of where the nearest bathroom was and had to guard against getting my clothes or whatever I sat on, wet. Going to an event where there were limited restrooms, or going golfing was out of the question. Airplane travel was something to fear. I was considered to be a severe case.

The incontinence pads come in many shapes, sizes, and prices. As is the case with most things, you get what you pay for. I found that that the name brand pads (Depends, Tena) provided the best protection, CVS or Wal-Mart brands or other no-name brands were less expensive, but didn’t have the capacity or in some cases the comfort I needed.

I found that some brands were labeled for incontinence, but were meant for a woman. These pads were more narrow and longer than what I needed. Since a woman’s plumbing is stationary, she doesn’t need the pad width a man needs. Also, the one’s that are longer can become really uncomfortable. Pads labeled for men fit the bill.

I also found that wearing compression shorts, instead of briefs, really aided in comfort and confidence. When the pads become wet, they become heavy, and if you wear cotton briefs they can droop and not offer protection. Boxers are not suitable for pad wear.

A year after radiation I was still going through 6 to 8 pads a day and decided to look at some options. Basically, they can try 2 things surgically, a sling procedure, or an artificial sphincter. I had found that learning about my condition made me less fearful, so I went on-line and looked up both procedures and was even able to see them on the Internet. The sling procedure looked relatively simple (and has been used on women for quite some time) and I opted for this. I personally felt that the artificial sphincter added a lot of mechanisms inside that may interfere if I decided to get a penile implant at some point in time.

Basically, they take a piece of mesh, have it go across your urethra and anchor it to your pelvic bones with screws. This provides pressure that helps stem the flow of urine from your bladder. You don’t need to activate anything.

This was an outpatient procedure that was done under general anesthesia and took a little over an hour. The incision was made in the perineum (between the testes and rectum). It went well, there was discomfort were the incision was made that was relieved with ice and pain medicine. It wasn’t unbearable by any means and was fine in a few days but it remained tender for a while afterwards. I felt no pain or any other sensation internally afterwards.

Realistically, we weren’t expecting to see me become totally dry. I was looking to get my dignity back. A person who did not have the same degree of incontinence that I had would probably have much better results than I did.

It has been 14 months since this operation and I consider it a success (by my standards). I basically go through 3 pads a day, 1 at night and 2 during the day. Depending upon what I do, I can go 6 to 8 hours with one pad. I can golf; go to any events, exercise, travel by plane, all without fear. The off-brand pads now offer adequate protection. Coping with this is not an issue at all for me now, and it is getting better with time. It was one of the best decisions I made in this battle.

I did have to accept some life style changes to stay dry. No caffeine (I have come to like decaf coffee), watch out for spicy foods, limit alcohol. This is a small prices to pay for a much improved quality of life.

If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me: