Young, Active and Incontinent: Sam
By Melissa Granberry
Incontinence does not equal inactivity. Just ask Sam, a 48-year-old Californian, whose active life includes working with unions in his area, pursuing photography part time and providing full-time care for his physically disabled son. Being inactive is not an option in Sam’s busy schedule.
Ten years ago, Sam owned a tour business that took customers to Las Vegas by bus. While working, he began to feel dizzy, weak and had numbness in his lips and feet. Although this went on for some time, he did not seek medical treatment. "I suffered from ‘stubborn male syndrome,’" he says, laughing. "I was not one for seeing a doctor."
During one of his trips, he had a wetting accident, and afterward, one of his customers, an emergency room nurse, urged him to see a physician. After completing a medical exam and blood work, Sam’s doctor came back with a diagnosis: diabetes. "I had been suffering from type 2 diabetes for more than three years," Sam says.
Although this diagnosis is hard for anyone to hear, it was especially difficult for Sam, whose mother had recently passed away from the same illness. All of the advice that he had given his mom about diabetes, like cutting out sweets and taking better care of her health, suddenly came back to him.
Sam decided that he needed to do something about his physical health, and he immediately started monitoring his diet. Now he enjoys foods that he loves, like steak and potatoes, but leaves the sugar in the sugar jar. For exercise, he added 1-mile walks into his daily routine. "In 11 months, I lost 100 pounds, which improved my condition significantly," Sam says.
Incontinence: "No Big Deal"
Though he is healthier, Sam continues to deal with loss of bladder control. The untreated diabetes caused nerve damage to Sam’s bladder, making it impossible for him to tell when his bladder is full.
For a while he used a Foley catheter, but after that became too uncomfortable, he switched to absorbent briefs. "I would just need to keep the brief changed many times throughout the day," says Sam.
Now, traveling and changing in a public restroom has become "no big deal" to Sam. He carries a backpack to hold all of his change of undergarments and supplies. "I use this whenever I am away from home, even to the doctor's office," Sam says. "It works great and no one seems to pay attention."
Sam says incontinence is like anything else in life: "You deal with it and get accustomed to it."
Sam has become somewhat of an expert on absorbent products. Not only does he use them, but so does his 16-year-old son, who is also incontinent.
For the many young people who are nervous about relationships because of their incontinence, Sam says there is no reason to be worried. "You are not alone," he says. "You can still lead a full and productive life."
Diabetes and incontinence have not managed to slow Sam down. If he gets discouraged, he remembers that everyone faces tough times. "No matter what condition I face, there is always someone who must face more difficult challenges in life," he says. "My suggestion is: Wear a good protective garment and face life with open arms."