Each of my clients has a special story. Here is one of them.
This is a must-read if you or someone you know has battled cancer, has surgical scars, wants to return to their active lifestyle but doesn't know how, or feels let down by the medical community. Or just needs a dose of hope right now!
This is from an interview I did with one of my clients, who is now our most recent "graduate" from physical therapy:
Thank you for joining our Zoom meeting this morning and for sharing your story of your rehab journey. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
All right, thanks for having me; I appreciate being here. As Laura said, I have seen her since last July, and just by way of background and so that she's relieved of any obligations around HIPAA or other compliance issues:
I'm a 40 year old father of four and was diagnosed with stage three rectal cancer in early 2018. I went through the rest of that year going through treatment. Cancer was fairly advanced so I had major surgeries that took out the last 15 inches of my digestive tract, I'm a permanent ostomate now. Through all of that, it was pretty evident to me that as I now had about 60 linear inches of scar, I needed to get some help with relearning how to do some basic things, and certainly having guidance as I wanted to go back to being a very active person. I ran half marathons and a couple of full ones and have, as I said, a lot of kids who I want to chase around and roughhouse with. I want to spend the next 40 or 50 years being as normal as I was before I was diagnosed. So that's kind of the background.
Why did you reach out for physical therapy, especially pelvic floor physical therapy?
Yeah, so I was at one of the top cancer centers in the country. And while they're fantastic in lots of areas of care, the post-op physical therapy is definitely a weakness for them. And the more that I talk to people, it's just generally a problem in oncology. So, as I thought about doing things like rebuilding my core strength and running long distances and stuff like that, it became obvious to me pretty quickly that I needed help getting there. I had asked several times to be prescribed physical therapy and was not [referred to anyone].
Then a friend of a friend dropped me Laura's business card. I said, well I'll give her a call. I did not know that there was physical therapy that specializes in pelvic floor area, and I certainly as a guy don't really think of that, to be honest. You know, when my wife gave birth that might be something that I've thought about, but for me, specifically, even though it definitely has an impact, it's not something that I had on my radar screen at all or was even aware of.
So you initiated the call and came in for a 30 minute consultation, I tell folks that I do offer a free 30 minute consultation, just to give people an idea of who I am, what the treatment space is like, are we a good fit, is your problem something that I can help you with. And so that's how we started working together.
So my next question is: What would your life be like now if you didn't get any of this physical therapy?
There's a lot of things I found out through the physical therapy that I know that were probably long standing issues around flexibility and proper breathing and things like that. I haven't gotten back to running; I was planning on doing the Garmin events, before that got cancelled with all this quarantine stuff.
So that would have been much much worse and I think just a general lack of confidence to be able to do everything from rough house to work in the yard to doing something a little more physically strenuous like the running. Just would have been far worse.
But there have been a lot of unexpected side benefits. I gave the example of breathing; when I go on runs now, I am MUCH more efficient. I can tell you just ramping up to longer distances was much, much easier because I was breathing properly. And that's something that Laura got me squared away on that I really probably was not doing right since--who knows when!
Any other outcomes or results that you did not expect? When you came in, you had certain goals and expectations. Were there any benefits that you gained that were a pleasant surprise?
Yes, some of the other issues I found were scar maintenance in my case, because that's a big deal, as I said, with as much cutting as they had done. It was a very positive thing. People talk about the impact of scars; it was always one of those things -- you can't see it, you don't really know; yeah, you feel a little bit different or something pinches or what have you. But until you actually start working on them and knocking some of that tissue loose and getting a little bit more flexibility, it always seems like kind of a "squishy" topic to me honestly.
So, I was fairly dismissive of it before. I was told, you had to pay attention to this and spend some time on it and once I did, there were plenty of benefits around that so I feel a lot more comfortable. The other day, my nine-year-old crashed into what had been a sensitive spot. And it caused me no anxiety or physical pain, which is something pretty representative of one of the benefits of working with Laura.
One thing I tell people, because I see a lot of people with scar issues, is that it takes at least two years for a scar to fully mature. But even if it's been two years or 10 years post-surgery, it is important and it's never too late to start.
Anything else you feel that others should know about?
You all know how powerful word of mouth is, and especially when it's a more specialized type of service like what Laura provides, in particular a pelvic floor focus. I don't know what the general knowledge is about that, but when I think about her potential client base it's one of those things that she's got to really work hard on awareness and things of that nature. So from that perspective, I was very fortunate and blessed that I even got connected with her in the first place. I'm not getting a lot of help from within the medical community in my estimation. That's something that I think is good to know.
And then I will speak to my fellow males that are on this call. You know, pelvic floor is kind of a weird area for anybody to be dealing with, but for whatever reason, in my mind, and probably because of childbirth and just, you know, call it chauvinism if you want, I always assumed that it was more to do with my wife and making sure that she was healthy, and I hear a lot more about women's pelvic floor issues anyway.
It was a big deal for me because of cancer, hopefully none of you have that, or don't have to go through it. I surely wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. But it's one of those things that there's a lot of other issues that we encounter as guys. In the future if it wasn't cancer, it was probably gonna be my prostate at some point or something else along the line, and I just really didn't think about this at all. And this type of service and I think I got a lot of side benefits out of it. It's physical therapy, it's not invasive. It's a matter of just getting your strength up and doing things the right way.
I'll compliment Laura on her professionalism and ability to deal with a sensitive physical area in a very discreet and proper manner. She's got all kinds of tips and tricks and things like that that's just part of her natural approach that I've never considered, and it's like -- someone's gonna be working on my pelvic floor. They gotta be thinking about this, this, this, and this, and she had thought about all that stuff and more. I was never in a situation, obviously, even though it's a very intimate area, let's say, I was concerned about that initially, but she was still able to do what she needed to do without me worrying about flashing her or things like that.
And I just want to commend Joseph for his confidence in me. I've never run across a case like his. But, like I told him, "you know, I've never seen this before, but I think I can help you and if it's okay with you, let's figure this out together". And he was up for the challenge, I was up for the challenge. I hope I never have to see anyone who's had what you've had, because maybe somebody already sent them to physical therapy. So it's been a pleasure working with you, and we're still working together a bit. You’re doing great. I look forward to watching you in your next half marathon! Thank you for sharing your story with us.
*name changed to protect client's privacy. Story shared with client's expressed permission.
We help men and women with bladder leakage, pain, or other problems “down there” to regain their dignity and reclaim their lifestyles, so that they can stay fit and active, keep up with their kids or grandkids, be worry-free at social outings, and enjoy intimate relationships again.
Laura McKaig PT
Specialist Physical Therapist