"Will you tell me about your first LBL experience?" It may not seem like a polite question, but I knew it would be okay to ask Dr. Louise Achey, Doctor of Pharmacy, and author of the book, Bladder Bliss. "I was about seven-years-old and I was watching that scene in the Wizard of Oz where the Lion gets scared by the Wizard, runs the full length of the hall, and jumps out the window. I laughed so hard I wet my pants," said Louise.
That was an experience that Louise was to revisit when she reached her late 30's. Whenever she was having fun and laughing, she leaked. To keep from leaking, Louise started limiting exposure to humor in her daily life. "As my LBL symptoms progressed, my life shrank, and I felt despair," said Louise. Back then, pads were not like they are now. They were more like diapers. "It made me feel old, like my life was going to be over long before I was done with it," she told me, "It became a source of silent despair in my life." Being a Doctor of Pharmacy, she looked at the drugs available for LBL and discovered they were not for her. They were designed for people with OAB (Overactive Bladder.) On top of that, she was uncomfortable with one of the side effects of those medications. "I had been on a drug for depression a few years prior, and got dry mouth, and dry eyes. My eyes hurt all the time. My eye doctor had to put little plugs in the corners of my eyes to keep the tears from rolling away," said Louise. Once she was able to get off the medication, things were so much better. One thing was for sure, she didn't want to experience the side effects of dry eyes again. "What about Kegels?" I asked her. "I tried Kegels. I really did. It didn't work for me. That was also a source of despair. I wondered, 'Why does it work for other women but not for me?' I tried vaginal weights too, but that didn't work either. It became another failed attempt," said Louise.
She knew her situation was getting progressively worse when it became difficult to keep a tampon in. "I was so tired of pads," she said, "I cannot describe how tired and chaffed I was." At that point, she gave up. She resigned herself to her situation. Then, one day, she noticed she was able to wear a tampon better. Over the next three months it got even better. Louise went back through her journal to see if she could figure out what she might have done differently to get these positive results. One possibility - an exercise program she was taking. The program appealed to her because it didn't require any crunches or sit ups. "I was focused on getting results on my waist line, and nothing else, and lo and behold my symptoms improved," she said.
To know for sure which exercise was making the difference, she eliminated everything but the one she thought it might be. That exercise created the kind of progress you'd expect to get by doing Kegels correctly. "It took eight weeks, and I could laugh and stay dry! I cannot express how good it felt," she said, "It was like being let out of prison." Louise felt her whole world opening back up. "Women need alternatives to surgery, and drugs," Louise said, "This could help them with whatever modality of treatment women are using to gain confidence and freedom." Louise only talked and wrote about stress incontinence in her book, Bladder Bliss, because that's the type she had. But then she started hearing from women with OAB and they were getting results too. Some, like her, stopped leaking all together. Others felt the victory of moving from a thick to a thin pad.
Louise's wants women to hear her message: "Don't give up on yourself. Do not let it cause you to pull back from life. I cry inside when I overhear women saying, 'I'm afraid to get on a plane to see my family because I'm afraid I won't get to the bathroom on time.' Don't say no to life because of your bladder. Keep searching. Keep working on it." Louise didn't realize how much she had shut laughter out of my life until her bladder symptoms got better enough that she could laugh again without leaking. "I'm medically trained," said Louise, "I knew I had a problem and I didn't go to a doctor. I suffered in silence by myself. I didn't tell my family members. Only when I brought it up to other women and I heard 'you have that too?' did I realize I was not alone. It was a bonding experience." Have you been saying "no" to life to avoid the fear of leaking? It's time to say "yes" to life, talk with others, and explore your options.
If you have a question or a tip to share about improving LBL, please leave a comment below.