When I was approached and asked to write an article/blog Post on Osteoporosis in order to help draw awareness to the condition, at first I was excited to contribute, but then I went away on vacation, and relaxing in Spain with my daughter I began thinking more about it. I asked my daughter, almost rhetorically, what do I have to say about the subject? After all, it doesn’t seem to affect me, and as long as I take the monthly pills I’m ok. Really though? Let’s think about this some more. The first bone I ever broke was in my ankle. I was running through the house trying to get Christmas presents wrapped so that my then eleven year old daughter could take them to teachers at school that morning. Actually, I broke that ankle in 3 places, and due to leave on a sailing trip the next day, this was more than a little inconvenient. I insisted on going sailing anyway. I insisted on a removable cast, a heavy splint. I didn’t want to be completely incapacitated in a plaster cast.
Lesson 1 – listen to your doctors. They honestly know best. It took so much longer to heal starting out in this way. On the other hand; lesson 2 – not being willing to give up or give in to an illness is a good thing. It means you are not going to give up on the things you enjoy in life, but this needs to be tempered with reason, patience, and following the advice of a medical team you trust. I’m not very good at the Patience thing. When it comes to others, I’m very patient. When it comes to me, I am demanding, relentless, and unforgiving. Patience disappears.
I didn’t know all those years ago that I might have Osteoporosis, after all, I had only ever experienced one bone break in my life, and as kids, lots of friends were breaking arms or legs in the pursuit of some sporting goal. Click on the link above to learn more about Osteoporosis. It’s worth the effort.
Sipping a full bodied Rioja in our friend’s home in Arcos de la Frontera, after a 9.6 mile walk around Seville, (you’ve got to love FitBit) rubbing my aching knees, yes the one I had replaced twice in the same year – (revision surgery November 2014,) and the other “good” knee, which, with the knee cap shifting and sending me into shrieks of pain, I realized might be another candidate for replacement in the not too distant future, I began to think about accidents I have had.
In the last 10 years I have fractured my femur, broken three fingers on my left hand which lead to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, broken a bone in my left foot – a break known as a Jones Fracture, and a few days ago I fell off my bicycle (for the second time in as many months) breaking part of my wrist – the scaphoid bone.
This most recent break made me realize that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t continue to try to ignore how vulnerable I am to breaking bones as a result of my Osteoporosis.
It was the femur fracture that got my doctor questioning whether I could have Osteoporosis. After all, the femur is the biggest bone in our bodies and supposedly the hardest to break. I was very fortunate. I managed to just do a hairline fracture. The issue was how easily I had managed to fracture this bone. I simply tripped going up a step and landed on my left side. It wasn’t a hard fall. Anyone else might at the most have had a small bruise. I was in a lot of pain, and I couldn’t walk for a long time afterwards, but it was following this fracture that my rheumatologist, (most of you know that I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 26 years ago) suggested I had a bone density test. I’m glad I did. The test revealed I have severe Osteoporosis. I was forty nine years old at the time. My doctor talked to me about the need to maintain a healthy level of vitamins C and D. Our bodies need vitamin C for healthy bones. Remember your mothers nagging you to drink milk? We need vitamin D in order to absorb vitamin C. Of course you can take supplements, but in my case I didn’t need to. I have a healthy diet, and a healthy exposure to the sun, a natural supplier of vitamin D. Many people are not so fortunate as to live in a climate where the sun shines all the time, and natural foods are plentiful and not outrageously expensive. My doctor and I settled on a drug called Actonel to help me fight my fight against this bone destroying disease.
Lesson 3 – denial is counter-productive. Being as unforgiving as I have always been, I refused to acknowledge the incapacitating nature of Osteoporosis. I was determined that a silly little disease like this would not stop me from living life to the full. I continued to push myself physically. I refused to listen to pain and what it might be telling me about my body and my needs. I refused to consider self nurture to be a gift I deserved and needed to practice. Then I fell. I was helping a young family get off a plane in Puerto Vallarta, and I tripped carrying their luggage. Three of my fingers bent backwards and broke. The family grabbed their luggage and rushed on to enjoy their vacation. I ended up in the emergency room of a hospital where my hand was set incorrectly, as a result of which I sustained permanent damage, and developed chronic regional pain syndrome. My life was in turmoil. I couldn’t endure the pain. I had regular nerve blocks to try to contain the pain, but one of the best treatments was Mindfulness Meditation. I took mindfulness classes at Stanford Hospital.
Losing much of the use of my left hand proved a catalyst for depression. I needed help for the depression, and I realized pretty quickly that I needed help coming to terms with having Osteoporosis. Some studies point to depression as being a risk factor in developing Osteoporosis. Other studies look at how having Osteoporosis can lead to depression. Our minds and our bodies are not separate entities. Please take the time to read about our mind-body connection.
I mentioned earlier in this post that I had a total knee replacement last year and that it didn’t go so well. I’d like to take the time to talk some more about that, and to give you some pointers on how to find the right medical team to work with. Watch this space. I need a few days without writing as it is hard with just one hand. I’ll return in a few days.