I’ve had RRMS for 17 years, with each inflammatory attack leaving me with more deficits than before. Side effects accompanied the prescription meds I had to take for those new deficits. Like many of you, I’m learning how to troubleshoot some of these additional symptoms by going back to the basics of good health.
For example, I have recently rediscovered the simple act of drinking lots of water every day. This isn’t the first time I’ve attempted to sustain such a regimen. Each time I’ve tried it in the past, my body has handled it poorly and I have had to scuttle the operation, frequent urination at inopportune moments being the recurring deal-breaker.
Before I developed MS, I tried drinking 64 oz of water daily for a month. I was working an office job at the time and I had to use the bathroom at least three times every hour. Not very practical when you have to be available to the director and other department staff. A health care worker once told me that my body would soon adjust to the higher water intake and I’d pee normally. But this turned out not be the case; after 30 days, I ran to the restroom just as often as I had on day one and soon abandoned drinking so much water. Years later, a nurse once confided to me that she and her co-workers weren’t allowed to drink water on the job because they’d constantly be running to the bathroom. I asked her why doctors insist that we do this thing when they don’t even let their staff do it. She shrugged and said nothing.
In 2009, ten years after developing MS, a flare left me with a spastic bladder. I began taking Vesicare to quiet the urgency and reduce the frequency. It quieted the urgency to the point where I could actually sit through a two-hour movie at the theater without getting up in the middle of the film and hobbling to the restroom. Then one day at a routine appointment, a primary care doctor suggested I drink more water (just because she’s supposed to tell everyone as basic health advice). I told her it would cancel out my Vesicare and make me pee all the time so I can’t do it. Once again, hydration loses the battle. I’d rather have been dehydrated than chained to a toilet all day.
Over time, my MS leg spasticity worsened while the baclofen dosages grew less effective. It became necessary to increase baclofen. Though the increase created the right mix of stiffness and relaxation, my legs were still weak and I struggled to walk through the grocery store. Then, to my surprise, big pharma brought out an effective medication called Ampyra to treat this problem.
While Ampyra worked impressively to strengthen my legs and prolong my stamina, it also created a new bladder problem. Urine retention—having one hell of a time emptying my bladder—the polar opposite of a spastic bladder that wants to constantly empty itself no matter how little urine it’s holding. This had never happened in all the 17 years I’ve managed MS symptoms. I’m still taking Vesicare to regulate urination and keep urgency under control, but now I have to stimulate my bladder to let go. My usual bag of tricks consisting of running water in the sink and pressing on my belly weren’t working so well anymore. What to do? I almost phoned my urologist to make an appointment about self-cathing. But something happened that made me delay that call.
The solution came along in the form of a treatment for my recently-diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). My gastro wanted me to start drinking lots of water to hydrate my bowel. I drank 32 ounces the first morning and, to my surprise, I peed several times with a urine stream which, to my great joy, roared forth and crashed over my craggy vertices like Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River. I am cured—not with holy water from Lourdes, mind you, but with ordinary Tecumseh, Michigan tap water.
Curiously, drinking all that water has not overstimulated my bladder. I can hold my urine better than I could before the MS, even with a full bladder. Perhaps the side effects of Vesicare and Ampyra have, in conjunction with hydration, created what is the closest my bladder will ever come to acting normal. And think of the money I’ve saved on disposable catheters!
Once again I am humbled by the healing quality of that simple molecule called H2O. My pocketbook thanks you, and I thank you.