Our patient Laura Mentch writes about how trust opened the way from her avoiding to accepting surgery for prolapse.
My experience of incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse increased steadily during my 30s and 40s. I coughed, a lot. By the time I was 50 we learned that cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease that causes mucus to be very thick, was responsible for my cough and recurrent lung infections.
My pelvic floor muscles had been weakened by coughing and from the rapid births with each of my three children, all good-sized babies. My approach for the increasing problems of pelvic organ relaxation and urinary incontinence included visits with local gynecologists, vaginal cones, pessaries, physical therapy and endless Kegels.
After searching the internet I doubted surgery would help me. I felt the repair wouldn’t last because I will always have a forceful cough putting pressure on my pelvic organs and pelvic floor, leading to renewed prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. Meanwhile, my prolapse and incontinence became more significant.
When my nurse practitioner gently guided me to action I looked for help in Denver, where I receive my CF care. I located the Women’s Pelvic Health and Surgery Clinic at University of Colorado Health and Dr. Kathleen Connell, a urogynecologist. After my first visit with Dr. Connell I began to think surgery could be an option. Her experience, considerate discussion of our options, and understanding of the difficulties presented by CF were encouraging.
Accepting surgery for prolapse
I headed home to Montana with a different vaginal pessary to support my uterus and bladder, as well as to reduce incontinence and any further prolapse. I also made a future appointment for my next planned trip to Denver.
After seeing Dr. Connell for about a year, it was not a matter of if but when we would have surgery. I felt she trusted me to know when I was ready and I trusted she would help me.
Eventually we planned extensive pelvic surgery that included hysterectomy, implanting mesh support for the remaining pelvic organs, and a bladder lift. We chose a time for surgery when I would have help during the surgery and for several weeks of recovery.
I prepared for surgery by focusing on good lung and physical health, anticipating surgery, hospitalization, post-op stay in Denver and recovery at home. Gratefully, all went well. Dr. Connell did not promise to fix my incontinence but it improved with the prolapse repair. I’m still doing Kegel exercises to help.
It has been a long journey to a good place. Each day I am mindful of preserving the surgical repair through supportive movement and realize the benefit of my surgery with Dr. Connell. Especially when I cough.
– Laura Mentch
See a reprinted article Laura wrote for CF Roundtable in its Spring 2016 edition. This is published with permission from U.S. Adult Cystic Fibrosis Association.