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U is for UTI's #WeAreStrongerThanMS MS Awareness Month

                                           U is for UTI's. 
symptoms of UTI

This is a big one for me. Luckily I do my best to stay hydrated and get my equivalent of eight glasses of water a day. Sounds good, right? 

The issue goes beyond being hydrated, though. All of that liquid has to go somewhere and it is a constant struggle to make sure that somewhere  is not on the floor. In public. With witnesses.

I am certain (well, relatively) that many of you can relate to the issue of "waste management". This is probably my favorite chapter in I Have MS. What's Your Super Power? Not because it reflects good times, but because it is such a constant concern in my daily life.

Chapter Two: Water Works                    

A friend of mine used this word once in describing strange physical symptoms she was experiencing. Due to her habitual hypochondriac tendencies, as well as the fact that the word was alien to my vocabulary, I really didn’t think much of it at the time. I just nodded in requisite acknowledgment and let her continue to vent.

I have had to learn to deal with many humiliations prior to being diagnosed with MS, but this is the most alarming.

When the word popped up again during D-Day (Diagnosis Day), my mind raced to recall the first time I had ever heard it. I immediately cringed in sympathy for anyone who experienced such a degrading, animalistic situation.

And, then, I realized that I HAD experienced incontinence; but I had associated it with a probable urinary tract infection for which I was prone. Wow, two red flags all at once; but I didn’t know how closely these situations were related or what they had in common.

Incontinence is one of the biggest problems I have with my disease. It is not uncommon for me to not quite make it to the toilet on time or even know that I need to go in time to even think about searching for said toilet.

In the beginning, and even now, I am not comfortable in strange settings if I haven't located the ladies' room and have developed an acceptable escape route just in case. There are particular places that I refuse to visit because I know, without a doubt, that disaster lurks. When my favorite grocery store got a face lift and removed the public restrooms, I no longer shopped there. I only shop at stores that offer close proximity to a public restroom and I only try on clothes after several visits to the lady's.

Pre-diagnosis I can remember sitting in traffic and feeling my bladder totally empty onto the plush black upholstery of my snazzy l’il sports car.
It was a warm day. I had driven several miles aware of a need to relieve myself but confident I could and would make it to the next fast food rest room, located right up the road. That’s when the traffic lights failed me and progress toward those Golden Arches stopped. Thank goodness I was alone, with no witnesses. (That has not always been the case.)

I hated to soil my car seat but at least this hadn’t happened in someone else’s vehicle! (Eww...) I could clean this up with no one the wiser; even if the chore took precedence over my evening plans of driving to a friend’s house. (Double eww...I didn't relish the idea of plopping myself back down in my own pee.) And right now I needed to get home and clean myself up. Sitting in my own puddle was not a pleasant sensation.

Why had this happened? What was wrong with my body that I couldn’t “hold my water”?

Afterward I remember laughing at myself as if I had committed a secret blunder to lock away in my private memory vault.

But then it happened again…and again…and again…

Once at a deli…once in the hallway at school…no, twice…no, three times at school…once on my back porch as I fumbled for the house key…again in my kitchen after miscalculating the number of steps it would take to reach the bathroom…once in line at Walmart…a couple of times in bed…when I stood up at my desk…on the edge of a ski boat (but that was okay since I was already wet and in the river)...

You get the picture.

What horrid fuel for an already accelerated anxiety level. I never knew when it would happen and I began avoiding consumption of liquids to the point of near hydration. The muscles that controlled that physical act of waiting no longer obeyed my command. I envisioned a bladder bag attached to my side or packages of adult diapers stacked in my linen closet. (Actually, I just figured it was another one of those irritating bladder infections and substituted the Depends for cases of -yuck- cranberry juice.)

My gynecologist suggested practicing Kegle exercises daily. My mother told me to wear Depends (That figures!). My urologist prescribed an assortment of medicines and with each failed prescription changed it to another. My neurologist just told me I would have to live with it. This was all after D-Day, so you can only imagine the assistance I received without a definitive medical condition.

I admit that I really didn’t do much (any) research on my situation after diagnosis. It was what it was.

Boy, oh, boy, have I learned to lean on myself since then. If I want to know, I need to Google it! Since my diagnosis, my life has taken a new direction. I still teach full-time; I am a mother and a wife; I enjoy my hobbies of reading, writing, and crocheting; I attend church and play in the bell choir; but I do not go out of my way to look for additional responsibilities. I enjoy my home, my books, and my teaching. And I head for the lavatory at the first sensation, no matter how small.

I'm sure there is a pill out there with my name on it that would alleviate this problem, but I am also certain that pill would only lead to another problem that required prescription treatment; so, I will pass and once again take matters into my own hands. I do that a lot.

In fact, I have found that living with multiple sclerosis requires a lot of self-experimentation. The MonSter treats its members differently. What works for one MSer may not be the answer for another. I wish that I had kept a journal to detail my journey from day one, but hindsight doesn’t do me any good right now. So, to throw around yet another overly used cliché, there is no time like the present.

Things I have learned about living with MS:
*Stay out of the heat.
*Always know the fastest and most direct path to a bathroom.
*Have a walking device (my poison is a cane) close, even when you are feeling your strongest.
*Always know the fastest and most direct path to a bathroom.
*Stay hydrated.
*Always know the fastest and most direct path to a bathroom.
*Exercise daily.
*Engage in a hobby, or two, or three.
*Do not apologize for your disability. Remember: it only disables you if you allow it.
*Find an outreach group, either on line or face-to-face.
*Wear comfortable shoes.
*Always know the fastest and most direct path to a bathroom.

Want to read more? Order direct from me and I will pay the postage.

 It's just weird, this whole pee trigger thing. Everything I read encourages us to drink plenty of fluids even though gut instinct tells us that the less we drink, the less likely an accident will occur. Though the logic in this theory stands true, cutting back on fluid intake can cause the urine to become more concentrated. This increases the chances of infection since it is essential to flush the bacteria, waste, and mineral deposits that accumulate in the body. 

How do we do that?

We drink. 

Water is the best thing you can consume, but it is not the only acceptable fluid. Studies are firm on curtailing the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and aspartame due to the increased bladder irritation they cause. 

Keeping your urine as acidic as possible is the best route to take in keeping your bladder happy. This means we need to pay strict attention to our consumption of dairy products, citrus fruits/juices, and anything containing sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate. Surprisingly, this means we should decrease our intake of (believe it or not) potatoes.

Image result for cranberries images

Cranberries and cranberry juice works well to fight urinary tract irritations.

We are encouraged to empty the bladder completely when visiting the loo. If this means double-voiding then bit is in your best interest to do so. This is the simple process of standing up when you think you are finished with your business. This redistributes any remaining fluid and re-stimulates the urination process.

Insufficient fluid consumption does not only affect the bladder. When we limit drinking, the bowels are also neglected. 

"Limited fluid intake: When  you stop drinking fluids in an effort to manage your bladder problems, you deprive your body of the fluids it needs to function properly. To make up for this, your body absorbs more fluid from the stool as it passes through your system."

Multiple Sclerosis For Dummies, 2nd Edition (1118175875) cover image

Now we have an even bigger problem. Constipation. Hard stools. Tummy ache. Ugh!

I don't even want to imagine the image of a constipated UTI. Doesn't sound pretty.

But, we've been there. Right? 

So, today I plan to cut back on my coffee (only one cup so far this morning) and concentrate on drinking water. Since I don't care for soda pop and I am not much of a "drinker" (I leave that to the professionals), this shouldn't be much of a challenge. Water is usually inexpensive and easily accessible.

Cheers!                           Image result for champagne glass images

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