POP at 72 / Story at 75
Three years ago we climbed Rainbow Mountain and when I got home I discovered I had prolapsed. The vagina felt uncomfortable and my uterus was protruding externally. We were booked for four weeks of tramping and biking in the South Island a couple of months into the new year.
My GP said I would not be considered urgent, but elective! That I’d have to wait months or maybe years. So we went private. The cost was about $15,000. Some people buy flash boats; we bought quality of life. The bladder was minimally prolapsed and the bowel less so. I had a hysterectomy, vaginally.
The lovely gynaecologist advised me to no longer carry a pack weighing more than 10kg, to aim more nearer 8kg. I’d already replaced my Macpac with an Exped 1100g pack, and had recently bought a lighter One Planet Nitrous sleeping bag weighing under 500g. I’ve kept warm in it in 3 degrees in a hut. I am prepared to wear my spare clothes to bed if it’s really cold. I weigh everything that goes in my pack, I always take plenty of clothes, essential gear and food. I recently did an overnight tramp, on pretty rough terrain, my loaded pack weighed 9kg. I had food left over and plenty of layers of clothes that I hadn’t needed to wear.
I was told that most women who’ve had to give birth by forceps would be at greater risk of prolapse. That was me, after a long and difficult labour. I’d had a smear test two weeks before prolapsing and nothing was noticed.
I have religiously done the pelvic floor exercises for at least twenty years. I have a family history of weak bladders! I’ve always taken great satisfaction in being able to lift big weights, bags of cement, logs etc. I no longer do such things. I am a potter, and I’ve found lots of ways to shift bags of clay or buckets of glaze without actually lifting them.
I made a support belt out of some wide strapping with velcro. I wear this when tramping or walking and find this helps support and reduce the ‘wobble’ of my belly. I do the hip belt on packs up firmly and wear it low, almost under my belly. I believe there’s a pregnancy support belt available, I haven’t yet investigated that. I’m not overweight.
I am 75 and hope to have lots more years of tramping, even if they have to be shorter tramps. I find that I get the tired dragging feeling if I walk for long on concrete or road, but the support belt helps. I can tramp on rougher tracks in a variety of terrain with less effect. I bike most days, for health, pleasure and fitness. We also kayak in a tandem kayak.