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Michelle King Robson: The Perils of a Prolapsed Bladder

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It started with the occasional sneeze – urine just came out of me. I had no control. It also happened when I laughed or coughed. At first I wasn’t too concerned about it and thought it would gradually get better. But after time it got worse instead of better. My doctor said that when my estrogen level got higher, it might get better and go away. But even tweaking my estrogen replacement therapy has had no effect. The other theory was that this issue could be a result of my hysterectomy. There’s a muscle under the bladder, kind of like a sling, that can drop when the uterus is no longer there to hold it up. This meant that I could have a prolapsed bladder.

So I was at a party recently and out on the dance floor – the dj was playing my favorite music. I was wearing linen pants and all of a sudden my entire bladder emptied.

Woosh. It was completely beyond my control. Suddenly I was drenched. And mortified. Thank goodness it was dark. Somehow I managed to get off the dance floor and went to the bathroom where I peeled off my soaked pants, rinsed them out and blew them dry. I went back to the party but stayed far away from the dance floor. I was so humiliated.

My doctor then suggested using a femring but it hasn’t helped me at all. As much as I love to dance and exercise, I haven't been able to do either. I'm too afraid that it will happen again.

What I’ve learned since is that at the time of the surgery, my surgeon could have fixed this problem – he could have done something to support the muscle. Only no one told me. I could get the surgery now to get it fixed but it’s another major surgery. I'd have several weeks of recovery. I swear that surgeons don’t tell you about this potential incontinence problem so that you’ll go back for another surgery and pay more money. My public relations consultant knew this. He's the first person I called after the horrible incident on the dance floor. He told me immediately that I had a prolapsed bladder. Why is it that my p.r. consultant can identify my prolapsed bladder and know how to treat it and my surgeon didn’t even forewarn me?

One of my good friends lived with incontinence for 25 years – she would have rather had a face lift than a bladder lift. The prospect overwhelmed her. Most women don’t believe that the problem can be fixed. Another problem is that women aren’t even willing to admit this problem. How many women are living with this and silently suffering? It’s humiliating -- so completely embarrassing! And here I am in the midst of it and yet I’m afraid to go under the knife again. When I go under for a prolapsed bladder, then what will my next problem be? Will there be yet another complication that a surgeon won't forewarn me about?

I was asked to participate in Dancing with the Stars in Arizona, which would be an absolute dream for me, but I can’t even think about dancing because of what I'm sure will happen.

A California researcher has shown that women who have had hysterectomies are 40% more likely to suffer from urinary incontinence that those that have not had a hysterectomy. However women who are under 60 years of age did not appear to have an increase in the likelihood of becoming incontinent and it seems that the symptoms appear 5 - 10 years after surgery. Researchers concluded that women are not counselled about the long-term health implications of hysterectomy.(The Lancet; 2000; 356: pp535-539)