Body image and catheters

I have just got back from a lovely week in the sun and, having braved donning a swimsuit for a delightful dash into the sea, I thought I would share with you my thoughts on body image, since endo has changed how I feel about my body's appearance.

Six years ago, I had bowel and bladder resection surgery and was left with a permanently swollen leg - nobody knows how and why and I guess I will never know. I was subsequently diagnosed with lymphoedema, which is a chronic condition. So I have a fat leg - it's pretty ugly, I don't like it one bit but it doesn't cause me too much grief now that I can get shoes on again (the velcro type - high heels are a no-no). I wear compression stockings but after six years of this, I am used to it. So I swim in my compression stockings and think nothing of it. Little kids always ask about it, bless them, they are so honest :-) but everyone else politely ignores it so all is good.

What really affected my body image was living with an indwelling catheter for many months. I have often had these for a few days or even weeks after surgery, but in 2010 I had one for 4 months. And then again for another couple of months this year. I have a dodgy bladder after lots of surgery on it for endo - my problems are really unusual thankfully.

I have found that life with an indwelling catheter is..well, different. Firstly there's the leg bag - practical but oh so not glamourous! And walking round with one's wee strapped to your thigh has its own challenges. Forget jeans - baggy trousers and skirts are the best. I found looking in the mirror, naked, a real challenge - I haven't got over that enough yet to contemplate dating again. Somehow it sapped my confidence a bit.

Since June, I have been liberated from my indwelling catheter after my bladder healed :-) I hope it lasts better this time. Sometimes I use intermittent self catheterisation - basically a small tube inserted into the bladder that allows you to pee. This is much easier than it sounds and I just do it at night sometimes when things aren't working well.

It's strange, I guess - I have had 9 laparoscopies for endo now but what has affected my feelings about my body image has been the external stuff that people can see. Yet all the damage is inside where we can't see it.

4 Replies

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  • Hi Carol

    Thanks for your message, but I think your stories are the inspiration, not mine. You speak directly from the heart and you've had so much to handle over the years. Hell, if you can look good, keep smiling and cope, I know I can.

    I've had a little setback myself lately, but its not endo, its still my leg. I can't do my job, I have tried over the past few weeks but is not doing me any good. Again I need to find that peace I once had, because to be honest I can only feel frustration and panic at the moment. Time heals as they say, so maybe I'll feel better in a few days, once I've come to terms with the change of life again. Having any illness makes us into masters of re-inventing ourselves.

    I am so glad you got away on holiday, you deserve it. Keep smiling, talking, sharing, you are a remarkable pillar of strength for others.

    take care

    all the best

    kgx

  • Hi carol

    I have just started reading your blogs and am finding them very inspiring,You are refreshingly honest about things that have happened which has made me think that maybe doing a blog may be of help too me(when i get the courage up lol)

    A huge thank you carol xxxx

  • hiya sorry to hear youve had a bad time.i was diagnosed when i was 21.i was hurting from the age of 16 and i am still in pain to this day.i have had 8 laproscopics and i woke up with out a womb with no kids.they also found it stuck to my bladder.and they cut 2 and a half inches in to my bladder.they also told me that i may have it on my bowel to i am so scared.

  • I have had a lap 3 weeks ago in which they found it on my bladder as well as other places im still really struggling and peeing blood with no infection also have to urinate very frequently and often feel i need to go but have problems emtying my bladder. The gp thinks i may also have it inside my bladder so is going to refer for a cystoscopy camera inside bladder to look.What happens if they find it in my bladder what surgery did you have to have? was it keyhole or open surgery? and what comlications were any of you left with concerning the baldder?im a little concerned about being left with a weaker bladder i cant control.

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