Osteoporosis

Margery - Interview 40

Female
Age at interview: 72
Age at diagnosis: 58

Brief outline: Diagnosed in 1994 after a DXA scan revealed severe osteoporosis. Her consultant prescribed Fosamax at first, then added Calcium, Vitamin D and HRT. Currently she carries with the same treatment minus HRT and takes Calcichew D3 Forte. She has regained bone density and is osteopenic.

Background: Margery is married and has two adult children. She is a retired college lecturer. She served as chairman of a local group in Scotland for nine years and a trustee of NOS for five years.

Audio & video

It is despite her GP and thanks to her own persistence that Margery was able to obtain a proper diagnosis of her osteoporosis. For several years she had been diagnosed with having a slipped disc. After severe pain caused her to faint and fall in her kitchen one morning, Margery was not satisfied with her GP's diagnosis particularly since she knew that her early menopause was a risk factor for osteoporosis. Of her own initiative, she went to consult a physiotherapist who concurred that one of her vertebrae was probably damaged and advised her to get an x-ray. The x-ray revealed that she had osteoporosis at 58 years of age.
 
Margery’s GP would say that osteoporosis was a normal part of aging. Thanks to a neighbor, she discovered the existence of DXA scans even before her GP. It took her a year before she was able to persuade him to allow her to get a DXA scan and to locate nearest facility 80 miles away. The DXA scan revealed that she had severe osteoporosis. The DXA scan consultant warned her to get treatment right away since at the age of 59 her bones were that of a 70 year old and deteriorating fast.
 
After her DXA scan the consultant put her on what was then a new drug' Fosamax (alendronate). Since her condition continued to deteriorate she was also prescribed calcium, vitamin D and HRT. With HRT, her condition improved but after six or eight years it was discontinued because of other health risks associated with it. She received a total of 6 DXA scans over a 12 year period.
 
She has gained 22% of her bone density and now she is osteopenic. Her GP and osteoperosis consultant at a local hospital see her condition as stable. She continues to take Fosamax, Calcium and Vitamin D.
 
Margery says she was "shattered" and "shocked" to be diagnosed with osteoporosis at a relatively young age. At the same time she knew that the disease was not fatal and that treatment was available. Margery became very active with the National Osteoporosis Society helping set up a local support group in Scotland and serving as a trustee on the national board for over five years. Although she is still a member of the NOS and will still has speaking engagements for the organisation she has since retired from her main responsibilities.
 
In her daily life, Margery used to feel a lot of pain when doing housework. Most of the time she would try to tolerate the pain and take as few painkillers as possible. She also used to sometimes be immobilised for several days at a time. With HRT she noted an increase in energy and an ability to do many more things. Today she can still lead an active lifestyle although she can get tired if she does housework all day for example, her back pain "comes and goes". She takes a number of precautions' she eats less fatty cheese to control her weight; she refrains from heavy lifting to avoid pain between her shoulder blades and takes showers rather than baths. She also avoids going out in the ice and snow so as not to risk falling and injuring herself. At the same time she speaks of her determination not to let osteoporosis "dominate" her life and prevent her from pursuing her hobbies and leading an active social life.
 
Margery notes that her own GP’s attitude (since retired) change dramatically over the years' He went from dismissing the disease to actively promoting DXA scans. Margery maintains changes such as these largely to activism on the part of patients organised by support groups. She believes that patient’s activities have helped raise the profile of osteoporosis with the general public and medical professionals. 

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