Irene - Interview 41

Age at interview: 68
Age at diagnosis: 49

Brief outline: Diagnosed in 1989 at the age of 49 and put on HRT and sandocal. In March 1990 diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent lumpectomy and radiotherapy; HRT discontinued. First DXA scan in 1998. Now on alendronic acid and Adcal D3. Improvement in bone density and now she has osteopenia rather than osteoporosis.

Background: Retired teacher; married with two adult children. In 1994 she joined a new exercise project for osteoporotic patients run by a local hospital in her city. She exercises three times a week.

Audio & video

In October 1988 Irene experienced severe back pain while lifting her weekly shopping out of the car. The pain was so bad that she had to take time out of work on three separate occasions.
In February 1989 she was admitted into hospital for further investigation. Initially doctors thought that she had myeloma but following a nuclear medicine x-ray she was diagnosed with osteoporosis. She had several vertebral fractures - wedge fractures therefore difficult to read in scan. Irene admitted that she didn’t know much about this ‘weird sounding disease’. She was discharged from hospital and put on HRT.
In March 1990 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy and radiotherapy. The HRT treatment was discontinued. In December of the same year Irene saw a consultant who only prescribed vitamins C&D for her osteoporosis and suggested a calcium rich diet.
Between 1991 and January 1994 Irene continued having no pharmacological treatment for her osteoporosis and her knowledge of the condition was limited. This changed for the better when in 1994 she became an active member of her local NOS Support Group and after her early retirement, Irene became the Newsletter editor; a job she has been doing ever since. Eventually, Irene became the chair of her support group.
In 1994 Irene joined a new exercise project for osteoporosis patients devised by a physiotherapist in one of the local hospitals. She was still on vitamins C&D only. The exercise project has proven very successful and continues running as an ongoing project for people with osteoporosis.
In December 1998 Irene had her first DXA scan and for the first time she received medication for the osteoporosis; Didronel. In 2002 her medication was changed to weekly Fosamax plus Adcal D3. A second DXA scan indicated that her bone density has increased by thirteen per cent.
Since 2004 and with the agreement and supervision from her consultant Irene decided to take her osteoporosis medication on alternative years. In 2007 her DXA scan showed further improvement in her bone density. Irene is no longer osteoporotic but now she is been re-classified as having osteopenia.
Irene is a firm believer in exercise to manage and improve osteoporosis. She no longer attends the specific classes at her local hospital but goes to other classes run in the community centers. At the moment she is doing Easy Exercise – an aerobic-type class. She also started going to Salsa Fit class and Tai Chi. Irene said that she is careful when doing certain things like lifting or climbing a chair but that osteoporosis does neither affect her ability to do things nor her social life.


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