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Humor vs. humiliation: how to cope with bowel problems.

My bowels signaled that a toilet was needed immediately. I rushed to the bathroom outside the lecture hall. Too late -- feces dotted the bathroom floor. Horrors, I had just lost control. Panic overwhelmed me -- I had a presentation to give in 20 minutes. My mind exploded with shame; my heart raced with fear, and tears swelled to the surface. A powerful surge of anger came to my rescue, providing the energy and determination I desperately needed to clean up the mess and still give my presentation.

Loss of bowel control is a common but little discussed symptom of multiple sclerosis. It remains a very sensitive, hidden issue for most people who face this problem.

Appropriately, the topic of my talk that day was, "The Application of Creativity and Humor in Living with Multiple Sclerosis." As I proceeded to speak, I knew I had to apply every idea I was expressing in order to cope.

After my speech, shock set in. How could I ever go out in public again? Was fear going to control my life? I know that I do not have total control of my body, but I also know that I do have control of my mind. Even bowel incontinence cannot touch my dignity unless I let it.

From that awareness came my decision. I enjoy life too much to remain at home in fear. So, after consulting my doctors and doing extensive reading, I chose the following action plan.

I discovered I was ahead of the game as I was already drinking at least six to eight glasses of water a day, consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, and eating a low-saturated fat, high-fiber diet. Swimming, yoga, and lifting light weights were an established part of my weekly routine. I added these new routines: every morning, I start the day with dried prunes and a quarter cup of prune juice; for breakfast, I eat homemade granola with a teaspoon of raw flax.

After breakfast, I turn the bathroom into my office, for up to an hour, if necessary. I use a glycerin suppository. I simply do not leave the house without my daily perch on the throne. It is incredible how much reading, writing, and phoning I can accomplish during my morning sit. (I have learned never to flush while talking on the telephone.)

This routine provides me with security for the rest of the day. Freedom is mine! I socialize, exercise, recreate, travel, engage in professional development and volunteer my time. I participate in life. I even joke about my morning office hours. I am now in control of my bowels. I am no longer bummed out!

Nancy Chamberlayne, a free-lance writer in British Columbia, Canada, has been living with MS for 9 years.
COPYRIGHT 1996 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Chamberlayne, Nancy
Publication:Inside MS
Date:Sep 22, 1996
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