The joys of MS are never-ending.
One area that gets disrupted by this disease of the central nervous system is our pelvic regions. That affects bladder, bowel, and sexual function. I’ve written about all of this in previous columns.
My bladder failed less than two years after I was diagnosed, so I’ve been self-catheterizing for about six years. No one warned me about it — I had to learn everything from scratch. Indeed, my general practitioner gave me completely wrong advice. Mind you, he did spot my original sclerosis in a matter of minutes, so he still comes out well ahead.
Sexual function — well, I could work that one out for myself by the lack of function. The spirit is still willing, but the flesh is weak! It turns out that a massive dose of steroids helps, but you usually take them because of a relapse, so you’re hardly in the best frame of body for any of those shenanigans.
The last of the triumvirate is the bowel.
I’d mentioned my bowel symptoms to my original local MS nurse years ago. I got advice on posture (you should raise your knees above the pelvis by putting your feet on something — tough to do when you’ve got MS) and on diet.
Being a science nerd, I watched a documentary about bowel cancer and Africa in the 1970s. Because of their high-roughage diet, bowel cancer was unheard of in Africa at that time. From then on, I ate bran flakes and brown bread. Also, because of incipient laziness, I never peeled potatoes. It made cooking faster and supplied roughage. At least, that was my excuse!
Somewhat ironically, the nurse had rather pooh-poohed the whole subject.
I went on battling my bowels for years, until it got to the point that I could lose entire days to the process. Despite taking stool softeners, I’d also have to consume vast quantities of the laxative bisacodyl. Then, if things got really pressing, it was time for a suppository. I was going to war on two fronts. Or is that backs?
As I’m immobile, I had two choices: sit on a toilet for literally hours or just get on with my day by using my commode — which, thankfully, is on wheels — then drag myself to the bathroom. Not enjoyable for me and definitely not for my family.
The last time I saw my current MS nurse, I again raised the issue. I was told this was a regular MS problem and there was equipment to help. How would I feel about a rectal catheter?
“I might as well go for the full set,” I quipped.
For the last week, I’ve been using the Peristeen anal irrigation system. As with anything new, it takes a while to master, but it has turned out to be one hell of a relief.
I never thought I’d join the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow in extolling the joys of the enema, but the MS journey takes you to a lot of strange places.
She even promotes coffee enemas!
Well, I suppose it’s one way of starting your day.
No sugar in mine, please.
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