My Journey with Pelvic Organ Prolapse
By Janet Burts, Founder Pessary Box
The journey of the Pessary Box began the day I was diagnosed with Pelvic Organ Prolapse. It involved both a Cystocele and a Rectocele which involved incontinence. I felt a roller coaster of emotions. It was decided, medically, I was not a candidate for surgical correction, and was told that I would be fitted for a pessary. I was given a list of don’t dos. I went home, looked at the list and placed a check next to all the things on the list that I loved to do. I am an active person who constantly challenges myself. It was decision time-follow the list and get depressed or find different ways to do the things I love. I seldom settle in the negative. I live with hope, daily.
I made the appointment for a pessary fitting. Unfortunately, it was just days before I embarked on a journey overseas. 16 hours of flight time, schlepping my luggage in and out of cars and trains. Did I mention I never pack light? My only salvation is four-wheel luggage and a 15-year old son that travels with me.
During the days leading up to my travels, the pessary began irritating me. It would slip down to the vaginal opening. I tried adding more lubricant, which caused it to slip even more. Inside, my vaginal wall was starting to become irritated as well. I took it upon myself to wear the pessary for several hours each day, like you would with a new pair of contact lenses. This helped quite abit. The doctor did mention that it may take several fittings before I had the right size. When I was fitted for the pessary, I was given my actual pessary inside my vagina, along with a large tube of lube, and a small information sheet on how to clean it.
Travel day was upon us. My son was given a crash course on what a pessary is. With all the blushing and turning away from making eye contact, we made it through. I am appreciative for my family. My son held my clean pessary over his right eye and remarked, “Mom, on Halloween you could dress up as a Pirate and use it as an eye patch.” Laughter does help to heal.
Six hours into the flight, I started feeling the irritation, to the point of becoming irritable, emotionally. I went to the flight lavatory and removed the pessary. At the moment I finished cleaning it, I realized I had nowhere to put it. At home, I would clean it and set it on the bathroom counter. Obviously while traveling, that was not an option. I wrapped the pessary in some paper towelettes and departed the lavatory. Once I was seated again, I began rummaging through my carry-on for other options. I settled on keeping it wrapped in the towelette and stuffed it into the bottom of my bag.
THE NEXT TIME I LAID EYES ON MY PESSARY…
It was being held by a blue-gloved, male inspector who was bending it like a taco, asking “Is this yours? What is it?” The look on my son’s face as he was backing away should have been a warning sign to the inspector. My son knows that his mother is 95% of the time verbally unfiltered when it comes to a woman’s body. With a definitive nod and acceptance that the item in hand was indeed mine, I proceeded to say, “That is a pessary. I have POP, Pelvic Organ Prolapse, and the pessary helps to keep my bodily parts inside of my vagina.” It almost played out in slow motion, as my pessary dropped from his fingertips, and rolled like a wheel into my shoes and lay there for me to rescue it. I had hoped to use the restroom and re-insert my pessary before leaving the airport and lifting our luggage up and down the concrete stairs, in and out of the train station. One of the don’t dos on my list. On the positive side, we didn’t miss our train. On the negative side, I rode on the train, wiggling about in my seat, due to the bulge emerging from my vagina.
When I returned stateside, I met with my gynecologist and discussed the possibility of receiving something to put my pessary in. She was surprised that there wasn’t anything on the market. She herself researched and found nothing as well. I made a promise to her that within 1 year, I would have a prototype. It took abit longer with all the minor changes, hiring an engineer, working with a manufacturer, etc.
It is my belief that POP is not commonly discussed and with my own experience, I have found that I am educating people about pessaries, symptoms, etc., even to those with a medical background. It took me a year and three doctors to finally be diagnosed with POP. It’s an ever changing world we live in, and I love seeing more practitioners acknowledging the condition and helping women overcome the time-consuming obstacle of getting diagnosed, getting treatment and addressing childbirth issues that can cause POP.
I designed the Pessary Box for everyday life. I designed the Box for every woman on the planet dealing with POP. Giving us back some privacy.