For two years, Reather Walker suffered in silence with intense lower abdominal pressure, as well as frequent and painful urination. At first, she thought it was just a natural part of aging. But as her symptoms worsened, she realized this was not something that would just clear up.
“I was in so much pain, I wasn’t sleeping because I was running to the bathroom every 45 minutes, and I couldn’t do even the little things I wanted to do because I would get this pressure and then pain in my bladder,” she remembers.
Alone and embarrassed
Many women often struggle with pelvic floor disorders without reaching out for help because they feel it’s just part of aging or they are simply too embarrassed to talk about these deeply personal issues.
“I felt like I was the only person in the world going through something like this,” says Reather. “I retreated from my friends and family because I wasn’t comfortable telling anyone what was happening. It was embarrassing.”
The truth is, however, about one in four adult women will experience a pelvic floor disorder — and these disorders become more common with age. There are about 300,000 surgeries performed each year for pelvic floor disorders — the same amount of surgeries performed for women who have breast cancer.
When Reather finally talked to her primary care provider about what was going on, her doctor referred her to urogynecologist Anne Sammarco, MD, MPH. From there, Reather’s whole perspective – and life – quickly started moving in the right direction.
“From the moment I met Dr. Sammarco, my life changed,” she says. “She immediately assured me that she could help me get my life back.”
Dr. Sammarco diagnosed Reather with pelvic organ prolapse, which was causing frequent urination, bleeding, as well as pelvic pressure and pain. The best option to address Reather’s debilitating symptoms and get back to life was a surgery to repair her prolapse.
“Dr. Sammarco told me that millions of women have pelvic organ prolapse and go through all of the things I was going through,” says Reather. “She walked me through her plan for my hysterectomy and explained everything to me. Her confidence and warmth helped all of my doubts dwindle away. I knew she was going to help me and I didn’t feel even one bit of fear going into surgery.”
Reather had a full hysterectomy with no complications shortly after her first appointment with Dr. Sammarco. Her recovery included about two weeks of taking it easy and follow up appointments.
“It couldn’t have gone better, and Dr. Sammarco was at every one of my follow-up appointments telling me that everything was healing normally,” says Reather. “I just couldn’t believe it when I didn’t have my symptoms anymore. It felt like a miracle, like I was being born all over again.”
Today, Reather is back to living a full, pain-free life.
“I didn’t feel like a person for quite a while, but thanks to Dr. Sammarco, I have my life back,” she says. “I see my friends, I take care of my mother, and I see my 4-year-old grandson every day. I couldn’t do any of that for two years. This is the best life I’ve had in a long time.”