What I love most about my friend Kathleen Seeley is she’s willing to share her truth - like the time she took up boxing and the instructor made everyone skip rope and do jumping jacks. Kathleen asked, “Am I the only one peeing myself?” Other ladies confirmed she wasn’t alone. So, she had a brave conversation with the instructor who was happy to modify the routine to be more bladder-friendly while still offered everyone a great workout. By speaking up, things improve.
Kathleen doesn’t like to let things get in her way. She’s a goal setter who loves to stretch herself. She’s president of The Seeley Group, a consulting firm that focuses on developing values driven cultures. Training leaders to grow by stepping into uncomfortable places is a passion of hers. And in all areas of her life, she practices what she teaches.
In her personal life, Kathleen has faced some big challenges. “Three years ago, my marriage of nineteen years ended. My dad died. My mom died. I left my family home, and lost my circle of family friends,” she told me. She reached out to talk with supportive like-minded women willing to share their experiences and began running workshops to support women in midlife as they design their second half of life. After reflecting on her life, she made a bucket list - 125 items that would stretch her beyond what she calls “the zone of familiarity.” “I don’t use the term ‘comfort zone’ because it’s not always a comfortable place to be,” she said. As a result, she’s put some lofty items on her bucket list. And to fully appreciate what she did, it helps to start at the beginning of her LBL experience.
Kathleen first showed signs of bladder leakage about a year after her second baby was born. It started as an occasional little leak that only happened when she ran. Instead of talking to her doctor, she ignored it. “I was too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it for two years,” Kathleen said. She didn’t know that one in three women experience LBL, and assumed she was the only one. After her third child was born in 2004, the leaking got much worse. “I couldn’t hold anything in. I had to pee 30 seconds out the door and I was always wet and uncomfortable when I ran,” she said. That’s when Kathleen started wearing pads. The leaking soon got so bad that she didn’t want to run anymore. That’s when she confided in her doctor who said, “I wish you had told me about it sooner. LBL doesn’t have to hold you back.”
Kathleen was surprised to find out that there were things she could do to reduce and possibly eliminate those leaks. She was prescribed a small device called a pessary. “It changed my life,” Kathleen said, “I could do physical activities again without the heavy leakage.” As Kathleen learned more about LBL she got comfortable bringing it up in conversation. “Once I started talking about it, a lot of friends my age told me it was happening to them too. She was surprised to discover that friends who never gave birth were also members in her “special club.” Like her, many cut back on physical activities, creating a cycle of weight gain and feelings of loss. They discovered that the more willing they were to talk with each other about it, the better things got. Kathleen said, “One of my friends who wears heavy pads now goes to yoga.” Kathleen also discovered you can get on with your life without going under the knife. There are non-medical and non-surgical ways to treat LBL, like pelvic floor physical therapy.
Every woman’s body is different so getting advice specific to your body from a trained professional is important. For Kathleen, bladder surgery eventually became the option she chose. Afterward, she was leak-free for about five years. Then, last year, the leaks slowly came back, and she started wearing light LBL liners. It didn’t stop Kathleen from making progress on her bucket list by taking a dance class. She joined a hip-hop class. “That was right around the time I noticed bladder leakage coming back, because I was jumping around a lot,” she said, “but I didn’t let it hold me back and I had a lot of fun.” This year, Kathleen decided to bring in her fiftieth birthday with a bang. She signed up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, having very limited hiking experience. The mountain’s location was unfamiliar to her. “All I knew about Africa was what I learned in The Lion King,” she laughed, “It’s sad, but it’s true.” In preparing for the trip, what weighed heaviest on Kathleen’s mind wasn’t climbing to the 19,340 foot Uhuru Peak. It was “how am I going to pee in the bushes?” She was concerned with how to pack enough pads and where she’d throw them away. She found a helpful tip on a blog for female hikers that suggested using pads to extend the number of days you could wear the same pair of underwear. Packing light is a must. “I had to wear the same trekking pants for 8 days, so imagine my thinking about how to prepare for that,” she said. In early January 2014, Kathleen arrived at Moshi, Tanzania, a city of 184,000 people located at the base of Kilimanjaro. She made the climb with four other trekkers, three guides and a team of twenty porters who carried everything, including a porta-potty (which was simply a ten-gallon bucket) around which they erected a small tent, tents, bedding and food. Each member of the trek had challenges to overcome, but they all reached the summit on Sunday, January 19 at 7:38 a.m.
What Kathleen most wanted to demonstrate for herself and inspire in others was the idea that you don’t have to let anything hold you back. “You don’t have to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro,” Kathleen said, “But what is your mountain? What is the thing that you’re most afraid of doing that would help you get one step closer to who you want to be? What’s one risk you could take? What’s one little thing you can do that could make all the difference in your self-confidence?” Maybe it’s finding a group of girlfriends to walk with every morning. “For me,” Kathleen said, “Mt. Kilimanjaro represented managing my fear about my bladder leakage by problem solving and having a plan. And it worked out great.”
What about you? When it comes to LBL, what’s your Mount Kilimanjaro?
-- Edited by MarilynSuttle at Jun 18, 2014 9:33 AM PDT