Regarding the title of this blog post, in two words, IT SUCKS. Big time.
Before I elaborate on this, let me address what I tell myself, and what my wife tells me: there are many worse health problems.
Aside from not being able to pee properly without the aid of self-catheterization -- not fun, but better than getting kidney failure from a backed-up bladder -- I'm basically a pretty damn healthy 69 year old guy.
I wouldn't trade my bladder problem for, say, cancer, heart disease, or loss of a limb. And I've no doubt that people with more serious medical problems than a FUB (fucked-up bladder) have good reason to tell me, Dude, consider yourself lucky.
Look, I know all this. Yet I'm still seriously pissed-off at not being able to pee.
I've described my urinary retention travails in previous posts in this blog's "My Peeing Problem" category. Most recently, I had a third urologist tell me that, to put this in non-clinical terms, I'm screwed.
Not for a while. Not until drugs, or surgery, or pelvic floor therapy, or whatever, does its thing. For the rest of my life. My bladder, I've been told, has decided to go on strike for the duration.
Well, more accurately it's on a perpetual work slowdown. I can still pee a little bit, but not nearly enough to keep up with what's coming into my bladder. So four or five times a day I use a catheter to do what my bladder no longer can handle: getting rid of urine.
As a journal article puts it, this is the Other Bladder Syndrome: Underactive Bladder.
Mostly people talk about needing to go too often. Indeed this was my problem until about six months ago. I had a mildly enlarged prostate that I thought was being treated adequately with Flomax and Avodart.
I'd have to get up several times at night to pee, then go back to bed. On long flights I'd head to the lavatory more often than most of the other people on the plane. During intermission at a play I'd visit the restroom... just in case.
Belatedly, I now realize that I should have paid more attention to some increasing problems. Like, taking longer to get a urine stream going. And a few times, not being able to pee at all for a few hours, even though my bladder was full.
Live and learn, as they say.
Unfortunately, I learned too late and am now suffering the lifelong consequences. As one urologist told me, the progression of BPH, an enlarging prostate, can occur so slowly, so gradually, it is like the proverbial frog being boiled in water.
If the heat is turned up slowly, it's hard to tell what's going on. Until you're cooked. Which, apparently, my bladder is.
Frustratingly, I've been told by several urologists, "You don't have a prostate problem; you have a bladder problem." But when I've pointed out that it must have been my prostate problem that led to my bladder problem, I basically have been told that it really doesn't matter what the cause was -- my bladder has stopped working, regardless.
So one reason I'm writing this post is to urge men to go to a urologist sooner rather than later. Don't ignore symptoms like taking a long time to get your urine flow going, or not being able to pee at all for a few hours even though you really need to go.
I thought I was OK. I figured the medications I was on for BPH would take care of my prostate problem. I had no idea that an enlarged prostate could lead to a non-functioning bladder.
Like I said before, I was an idiot.
I ignored signs of impending urinary function doom because, well, just because. It wasn't that I tried to fuck up my bladder. That just happened, and now I've got to deal with a majorly sucky situation for as long as I live, according to three urologists.
An old friend had a favorite saying: No one's life is ever completely wasted. They can always serve as a horrible example to others.
I'm hoping that by yelling loudly enough through my blog, and maybe other social media, I can reach at least a few other guys who might otherwise ignore the "gradually boiling frog" of what could become a serious bladder condition.
I don't like my catheter-filled life, yet I've got no choice now but to deal with it. Other men with an enlarged prostate who are at risk of developing acute urinary retention that could turn into chronic urinary retention -- my fate -- you do have a choice.
Don't follow my horrible example.
Do what I didn't do. Make an appointment with a urologist. Get checked out. Don't think that just because your family doctor has prescribed some prostate medications that seem to be working OK, you'll be able to pee pretty much normally for the rest of your life.
I thought that. I was wrong. And now my life sucks. Don't follow in my idiotic footsteps. Be smarter than me. In another post I'll explain exactly how my life sucks. For now, just believe me. It does.
(There are various terms for an under-functioning bladder: atonic, neurogenic. This Medscape article has lots of information about a neurogenic bladder. I forced myself to read it even though it was depressing. But if you want to motivate yourself to avoid getting a screwed-up bladder like mine, take a look at "Neurogenic Bladder.")