Specialized Physical Therapy Helps Patient Overcome Bowel Incontinence

After having a total hysterectomy and radiation therapy, Marilyn Arndt, age 73, of Waterford thought the worst was over regarding her health. She was wrong. As she was nearing the end of her radiation treatments in Fall of 2015, she began having an issue with diarrhea. After putting up with it for months she decided to reach out to her gynecologic oncologist, Gunjal Garg, MD. However, since Marilyn’s surgery, Dr. Garg had transitioned her practice from the Detroit area to the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint. Marilyn had to do some digging to reunite with her.

Marilyn Arndt

“The Detroit area hospital was trying to get me to go to one of their physicians but I really like Dr. Garg, so it was important for me to find her,” said Marilyn. “Once I did locate her in Flint, I scheduled an appointment and she told me the radiation therapy likely triggered my bowel issues. She asked me to make some dietary changes and try medication, but unfortunately neither worked.”

Marilyn has managed a daycare for 54 years and has led an active life. However, her uncontrollable episodes were becoming a big inconvenience. She was also missing out on her grandchildren’s travel basketball games, something she really looked forward to. This was all because her condition was coming on without warning and she was leaving the house less and less. Marilyn was growing frustrated and depressed. She followed up with Dr. Garg for a second time to see if there were any other options. She was referred to Lisa Priestap, a physical therapist who is trained in pelvic floor treatments.

“Most people still do not know physical therapy is a treatment for conditions like Marilyn’s, as well as those with urinary incontinence and pelvic pain,” said Lisa. “There is also a misconception among those who have heard about pelvic floor therapy thinking it only involves learning Kegel exercises. The therapy always includes education and behavioral changes, and depending on the person the use of weights or a biofeedback machine. The whole philosophy is controlling the muscles associated with the problem. I am passionate about helping people with these very personal issues, it is amazing to see the positive changes in their lives by the end of therapy.”

People often struggle to discuss their issue with a family member, friend or their own physician. Even when they are fortunate enough to hear about therapy, patients can be concerned because they are unsure of what it will involve.

image of Marilyn in rehab


“The therapy is very personal,” states Marilyn. “However, Lisa makes you comfortable, discusses things thoroughly and is very patient. If someone is suffering from an issue like I was, and is ready to do anything to fix it, my advice is to try the therapy. I swear by it. I have not had any accidents since my time spent with Lisa. It is the best thing that has happened to me in quite a while. She has given me my life back!”

Most patients will average nine to 18 visits spread out over the course of several weeks. Marilyn was successful after only nine.