How I Became Empowered After an Osteoporosis Diagnosis

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

The fickle nature of chronic illness has a way of leaving me feeling stuck and out of options. Many times, I can find a good work around to get myself out of the jumble of the day, but alas, sometimes circumstances really suck and become more than I can handle.

A few months ago, my endocrinologist wanted me to get a DXA scan. I had just had one a year prior, and even though it had shown minimal bone loss, I thought it odd that she wanted another one so soon. I saw her last month to go over the results. In less than 15 minutes, I was told I had osteoporosis in my spine, given a choice of two medications, and sent on my way.

I sat in my car and cried for a few minutes, and then I played the blame game. I blamed myself because of my crappy diet and non-existent exercise routine. I blamed myself for being cavalier with my calcium supplements. Then I got angry at Crohn’s for being a big jerk, and just for good measure, I cursed my temperamental, menopausal ovaries.

Once home and alone with my scrambled thoughts, I went straight to the computer and enrolled in “Freak Out 101” at “Google University.” I Googled osteoporosis, I Googled the medications… I Googled until I had about a dozen tabs open!

Full disclosure: this isn’t my first rodeo with bone density issues. About 14 years ago, when I was new to Crohn’s and all its wonderment, my gastroenterologists (GI) doctor was concerned about my Prednisone use and mal-absorption issues related to the Crohn’s and ordered a DXA scan. I was skeptical, but the scan confirmed osteopenia in my hips and osteoporosis in my spine.

He prescribed Actonel, a medication that most women don’t start taking until they are in their 60s. I was 37.

Actonel wreaked havoc on my upper gastrointestinal tract and caused esophageal damage. Enter protease pump inhibitors (PPIs), namely Prilosec. After two years my bone density improved and against medical advice, I stopped taking the Actonel. I could no longer tolerate the burning in my throat. I needed the PPIs for another six years. I was anxious to wean myself off of them because… they can interfere with calcium absorption and… drum roll please… may contribute to developing osteoporosis! That’s kind of fucked up.

Osteoporosis, my old friend, had returned and I had no clear picture of what my future might hold. My GI doctor and gynecologist have deferred to my endocrinologist, and the endocrinologist is pushing drugs (scary drugs). She is treating the osteoporosis, not my whole being. I pondered, “This medication can’t be my only option.”

I was stuck!

When I’m feeling this way, I like to recall a favorite lesson from my master’s program, “Life as a Rice Pot.” The rice pot is the symbol of movement; the creation of possibility, a synonym for life. Picture a covered rice pot sitting atop a flickering flame, contents simmering away. In time, the lid will start to jiggle and jump, steam will escape. Everything is moving in harmony as the once inedible rice is transformed into nourishment. Not enough heat and nothing happens, too much heat and the whole thing might blow.

So I sat quietly and thought, “I think I may have stopped paying attention to my rice pot and let it boil over. Now the flame is out and nothing is moving.” I didn’t know where to begin. Then it hit me. This is my life, my health, and my rice pot; I knew what I had to do. I re-lit the flame by making a phone call and asking for help.

My insurance company has an “ask a nurse” number. I called and as coherently as I could, I explained my situation. That I collect chronic illnesses like someone might collect sea shells and that my latest diagnosis and drug options had me at a loss. I discovered they have a case management program and that I would qualify.

That call led to another call and I now have a nurse case manager that is helping me manage my care. She connected me to a pharmacist so I could ask about other drug options. I have spoken with a social worker that has helped me find a therapist. (Houston, we have simmering!) I also started physical therapy and have been learning safe and smart exercises for balance and core strength.

While this flurry of activity has been time consuming and tiring, it has also been empowering and a big boost to my confidence. The phone calls, appointments, and exercise have forced me to put myself and my body front and center, back into my awareness. It’s a lot of work, tending this rice pot. I am doing it and I am worth it!

Follow this journey on Write Down the Middle.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock Image By: m-imagephotography

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Chronic Illness

Woman sits at coffee shop reading her tablet.

8 Tips to Help You on Your Chronic Illness Journey

I’ve seen the question, “Well, what can chronically ill people do to make their lives, their friendships, their appointments and their happiness better? Surely there are things they can do, too?!” Yes. Absolutely! No one is perfect, and having your body and health tossed into the world of chronic illness and pain is never graceful, [...]
Sick woman lying in bed

What You Should Know About My Illness If You Wish You Had My 'Leisure Time'

Today I was watching “Dr Phil.” It was an old episode about a study showing how stay-at-home moms have more leisure time than they think. Granted, some of the definitions given for “leisure” were quite unusual (getting a root canal if alone?), but the basic theme of the show was redefining how we spend our [...]
Electric Can Opener and Food Steamer

21 Products That Can Make Cooking Easier if You Have a Chronic Illness or Disability

Whether you have a disability, chronic condition or mental illness, some days, standing in the kitchen and cooking a complete meal just isn’t going to happen. On days like this, you may choose to order in, warm up some pre-prepared food or ask a loved one to cook instead. However, if you want to cook, there are [...]
woman text messaging

When I Watch My Friends Support Political Issues but Not My Illness

A few weeks ago, while scrolling through Facebook, I stumbled across an article that made my blood boil. It wasn’t so much the article itself as it was the shares that were piling up from multiple “friends,” who were broadcasting it like some kind of badge of moral righteousness. The article was titled “I Can’t [...]