Heart Happy

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I am a 54-year-old woman and I weigh 145 pounds.

I’ve lost 95 pounds over these past 18 months with the help of diet and exercise. I joined Weight Watchers and Planet Fitness. I am very proud of myself!

If I didn’t have neighbors, I’d put on a pair of panties, and dance, madly, in my backyard,
twirling a baton to demonstrate how joyful my weight loss makes me feel. I lost weight to
regain my energy. I was continually exhausted at my highest weight.

What I didn’t expect were the side effects of weight loss.

Strange side effects can happen. Your GP, who points to a chart on a wall every time they
see you, and rattles off percentages of the obese, probably won’t tell you. But I can say it,
because it happened to me.

Image by Clem Onojeghuo from Unsplash

Two words: bladder prolapse. It’s an ugly term.

In November 2021, I was on a power walk with my son, when I felt a throbbing pain in
my vagina. I stopped abruptly, jammed my heels into the pavement, and slumped.

It took several seconds to regain my breath. I could see my pain, manifesting as stars, in
my closed eyelids. It did not ease. I spent the rest of the slow trek back to my car cupping
my groin in a continuous, poorly executed dance routine. My son walked beside me in a
sideways stoop, hovering, very scared.

It was an unusual ache, something I’d never experienced before. There was a heavy
pressure around my labia. The entire ride home was uncomfortable. Even before I got
home and barricaded myself in my bathroom with a hand-mirror, I sensed that there was
a growth of some kind in my privates.

My gynecologist saw me quickly after I called her office, frantic and in tears, about the
big pink ball growing from my vagina. Once she completed her examination, she told me
that my bladder had fallen. This is called bladder prolapse.

I’d never heard of bladder prolapse before. My doctor was stunned. She told me that
bladder prolapse is extremely common in middle-aged women after menopause,
especially those who’d had children. One in three women suffers with Pelvic Organ
Prolapse (POP)*. I had only heard of uterine drop, and the dreaded hysterectomy. My
doctor told me that my uterus was fine, and that, before my weight loss, my pelvic floor
was not extremely weakened, the usual cause for any prolapse. My years of Monday
night Pilates may have helped. My bladder had just taken an unexpected nosedive. She
referred me to surgery – Anterior Vaginal Prolapse Repair.

I wanted to know why POP happened to me, specifically. Why did my bladder feel the
need to put on a Speedo and swan dive? And then, she said an interesting thing. She
stated that my extreme weight loss most likely contributed to my sudden bladder
prolapse.

I was mystified. I reasoned that I’d lost weight to improve my health, as my various
doctors all squawked about the positive effects of weight loss.

‘Lose weight, and you’ll be cured of all your ailments! Life will be perfect!’ they may as
well have said. ‘There are no ill side effects to losing an enormous amount of weight.
Only positives- Your arthritis will diminish. You can become a long-distance marathon
runner, after all. You’ll sleep better. Stress less. Your heart will be healthier.’

On this last point, my gynecologist beamed. ‘You are heart healthy.’ She stated that my
heart was now ‘happy’. Actual happiness. But now, my vagina was angry.

I endured five months with a prolapsed bladder, waiting for surgery. I bought three pairs
of Prolapse Support Briefs on Amazon. The built-in compression bands kept my prolapse
tucked. I was able to go about my days, with minor discomfort. Finally, on March 28,
2022, I had my POP surgery. At eleven am, I had an IV inserted in my arm with general
anesthesia. I greeted my surgeon. By 11:03, I was asleep. I woke up groggy and parched,
surgery completed, at 11:35.

I was prescribed antibiotics and Oxycontin. The first three days of my recuperation were
horrible. My abdomen throbbed, and I couldn’t sleep. The pain gradually eased.

Six weeks later, four post-op visits with the surgeon, I was fully healed, out of pain,
vagina intact and happy. I was even able to have normal, fulfilling sex with my husband
in May.

My suggestion to anyone considering weight loss is talk to your doctors beforehand. Ask
your gynecologist about the state of your pelvic floor. Then, have your gyno and GP
communicate. Wish I had done this! “Bladder Prolapse”- I would’ve used my groin
compression underwear before I started dieting.

Alas, my weight loss was worth the hardship. I feel indefatigable. I’ve reached “heart
happy”. I’m done.

* Bladder Prolapse (Cystocele): Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment – Urology Care
Foundation urologyhealth.org

 

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