“Glimmering on the edge of death, sweeping in to overwhelm us, is the larger sense of who we are.”
author of The Wild Within
This is Part I of a multi-part essay telling you about my own personal experience with osteoporosis. I’ll try not to be too windy but I will take you through some of the diagnostic and treatment phases of my care. I will offer LOTS of information to help you gain a better understanding of osteoporosis in general, and hopefully even some specifics into your own bone health.
Part I : The Day that Changed My Life Forever
I remember the day like it was yesterday…
The doctor put the x-ray up on the view-box…the bones were not white: they were gray–like ashes.
The x-ray of my pelvis didn’t light up with the brightness of hard, opaque tissue characteristic of healthy bone. It was dull, and the light that filtered through it, drained the room of substance. There had been barely enough room for an exam table and an old chair, and now it felt claustrophobic. I stood wedged between the two orthopedic surgeons, faces pale and gray in the dim, florescent, hospital light as we stared at the film showing the first hard evidence that something was seriously wrong. “The hip joint itself looks good,” the senior orthopedist said, “but the bone looks rare–not much density.”
It had been the pain that finally forced me to the doctor’s office; the pain that had stopped my running. As an athlete who had trained intensely for over 25 years, running road races, and competing in the sports of modern pentathlon and triathlon, I was used to discomfort and nagging injuries. But this time the pain persisted in a way it never had before. It was in my hip, and at first I thought it was just another over-use injury from running.
But the severity of this injury was more than I could figure out myself…I needed some help.
One look at the x-ray showed an obvious lack of overall bone density. Where there should have been the whiteness of bone, there were the dark grays typical of softer, less-dense tissues. Later an MRI, bone scan, and two bone density exams revealed capsular synovitis with micro-fracturing of the femoral head, and severe osteoporosis of the spine and both hips. Like a ton of bricks, I was totally floored as the bone density technician unprofessionally blurted out, “you have worse bone density than a 100-year-old woman!”
How could I have osteoporosis? I was a 46-year-old man, I had been active all my life, and I had always tried to live a healthy life-style. It seemed to me that nothing I had done had invited this disease, and that I had done a lot that should have prevented it. But here it was. It was too late to shut the door in its face. It had already moved in and was making itself at home. Now I had to figure out how to live with it, how to limit the damage, and how to stop it if I could. And I had to figure it out fast–before it ate away my bones.