Sharing Your Incontinence Story: How much is too much?

Pete Health Guide
  • When dealing with incontinence, how much should we share? Even when we feel we have information that might be helpful to someone, how much do we tell that person? How much is "too much?"

     

    This situation was brought home to me recently when a friend told me her husband has developed prostate cancer and will have to undergo a radical prostatectomy. This means, of course, that Foley will visit him for a couple of weeks and he will probably have to deal with at least some post-surgery incontinence.

     

    Funny thing is I've never actually met her. Our organizations do business together and our "relationship" is strictly email based. When she sent me an email letting know about her husband the first thought that came to my mind was that they would have to deal with Foley, and sent her some of the tips that I have learned over the years, some of which were pretty graphic.

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    After I sent the email (personal email account of course; never use work email for this!), I re-read what I sent and was somewhat mortified. I could not believe some of the details I gave her! Truth be told, we are just not that close. But, having experienced many a sleepless night dealing with Foley in the past, my heart went out to the both of them and I wanted to help. Guess I put my mouth (or my fingers) in gear before I engaged my brain.

     

    It made me think however, "how much is too much?"

     

    After four years of dealing with this issue, one would think I would know. However, we never know how someone will react to information about our condition. Most people just don't want to know. Sometimes even spouses don't want to know!

     

    For me personally I learned the hard way not to share too much. I was sharing a little with someone I thought was a close friend and found out they were disclosing it to others at my expense! This person had issues too (not incontinence) and we were commiserating. But, while I respected their privacy, they did not respect mine.

     

    So having been through this, I've learned a few things:

    • Be very careful who you tell. You never know when they will pass on what you thought was private information. Unfortunately, this may include people very close to you, including family members, and maybe your spouse.
    • Consider the reason for sharing. Is it to help the person or you? If it's not to pass helpful information, you might reconsider.
    • Never put anything in writing you don't want the world to know. This goes for emails and the Internet. When something leaves your computer, assume that everyone will see it.

    As I've said, most people just don't want to hear it. In this case, I was fortunate. She was not offended in the least, and indeed came back with more questions. But hopefully, I've learned my lesson, and can follow my own advice!

Published On: June 18, 2010