Weary to the Bone?

Written a year and a half ago:

I‘m struggling with the unexpected diagnosis (following my first bone density scan) of severe osteoporosis. Not the milder osteopenia. Not just the beginning … not just a warning. But severe and dangerous osteoporosis! How did this happen?!

I’ve been wandering about imagining myself crumbling. Recalling stories of a woman doing nothing more than standing at the kitchen sink when an ankle cracked; another of my mother noting one of her saleswoman standing next to a rack of clothes one minute and disappearing … collapsed the next, a third, stepping off a curb and … hip crumbling. My wiser self knows to quickly erase those images and replace them with those of lithe yogis, dancers, and athletes — strong and resilient women. Like me when Philip and I climbed the mountain in the photo above. But without even the defense of caffeine (caffeine, I read leaches 150 mg of calcium with each cup of coffee, so I’ve gone cold turkey on that), my spirits, as well as my energy, are somewhere down around my ankles.

My doctor wants me to start taking a drug called Fosamax asap. Having steered towards natural healing and away from doctors and conventional medicine all these years, the idea of being on a pharmaceutical (For the next 5 years, she says without flinching!) is more than a little unnerving. And the reported possible side-effects of Fosamax are horrifying. Close to home, my mother had a terrible reaction: the upper palate of her mouth began to fall down! The dentist panicked and immediately sent her to her doctor. “Off Fosamax!” was the doctor’s instant response.

The wise part of me says, Seek holistic opinions and options. The scared-to-death part wants to run to the pharmacy and take the first bottle all at once.  And the largest part just wants to lie down (again and again) and disappear into sleep.  By 9:30 am today and yesterday, my eyes were rolling up in my head, my head besieged by fog and longing to escape fear.

One friend responded immediately, “Sleep,” she said. “You’re in shock.” And much to my surprise and further confusion, every woman I speak to has intense feelings about this. One says, “You must take the drug; the risk is too great not to.” Another says, “Absolutely no to the drug.” (I’m sure Philip would be in the latter camp.) So … I’m feeling my way through. I bought the drug (fueled by panic last night) and took the first tablet this morning … much to my horror. You only take it once a week, so I have all week to consult natural healers and decide if I want to continue. Will talk to a nutritionist, two knowledgeable women I often consult at Whole Foods and Natural Grocers, my new physical therapist who’s been working with me for continuing back pain. (My doctor says the back pain is not related to osteoporosis, but I find it curious that the two places the scan shows the worst numbers are the two places that have been most troubling during this past year: 1. lower back and 2. right hip.  It seems to me there’s a connection, but she says osteoporosis is a silent condition. You don’t feel symptoms … until you break or fracture … or crumble?! Oh my god!)

I have been thinking about the back and hip pain symbolically. What have I put behind me, not wanted to see? (Philip’s death. My widowhood. Those are good for starters.) What burdens have I carried that have been too heavy? (Well, that’s fairly obvious considering the last months … years with Philip.) Do I feel unsupported? (Yes. Philip was what he was … so dependent in the end but also a lifetime’s partner and support.) What frightens or constricts my willingness to step forward freely? (Where am I going? And how am I to proceed without him?) And now, asking about this awful, bone-thinning condition – how have I become inwardly brittle, friable, fragile? Am I ready to break, crumble, collapse into small pieces emotionally?

The natural remedies proposed for osteoporosis include adding more calcium-rich foods and supplements. Also, other vitamins (including K-2 and D-3), minerals (including boron and something called strontium which sounds like some kind of strength from a far planet). I’m also told to do weight-bearing exercise and to move more, in general. How does a writer keep moving?

Life certainly can throw wrecking balls. And yet somehow — whether it’s health issues, friends moving away, or the death of our favorite person in all the world … life and I carry on. It’s awful and awesome.

Written today, July 15, 2019:

I’ve just found the above tucked away in a folder with potential blog posts. I wonder why I didn’t post it at the time. Too tired from the sound of it. Too frightened. I am still surprised to learn how many friends also have the osteoporosis diagnosis. (The International Osteoporosis Foundation says one in four women over 50 in North America have it.) Another thing we don’t talk about? Why is that? But today, still standing … not having crumbled … I think it’s important … Think we must talk about it for younger women friends who may face it a few years down the road.

Well, I am still standing. I threw that bottle of Fosamax out the day after I wrote the above. My doctor – a woman and a generally not over-reactive one – was and still is convinced there is no harm and much help in the drug. Every woman friend (but one who doesn’t have the dread diagnosis and who trusts conventional medicine more than I do), says, “No to Fosamax!” Even my dentist says, “Try every alternative before taking that drug. And then don’t take it!” I’ve decided to try every natural approach first. After all, I reasoned (when reasoning power returned), even after my mother had multiple falls in her last months of life, she never broke or crumbled.

So, what am I doing? Taking a class called Strong Women; Strong Bones where we move and use weights. Walking for 45 minutes to an hour daily. Lifting weights and doing my own body-weight-bearing exercises most days. Taking a natural supplement called Algae Cal Bone Builder Pack that combines plant-based, absorbable calcium, strontium and all the other minerals and vitamins believed to build and maintain bone strength and quality. (This product, by the way, comes with a 7-year money-back guarantee! They are that confident in its effectiveness.) I also make it a point to eat lots of green leafy vegetables (and go back and forth between my conflicting vegan principles versus a hankering for plain Greek yogurt and occasional cheeses … sigh …).

I will take a second Dexa-Scan (bone density scan) in January (giving this natural approach two years) and see what’s what. Improvement? No worse? One can but hope. And as with grief, one can but carry on.

My love, strength, and resilience to all.

18 thoughts on “Weary to the Bone?

  1. Joan,

    So glad you decided not to take Fosamax. I needed a dental implant but my periodontist said he would not do the implant because it would not hold until I was off Fosamax. for at least 18 months. Guess what, I stopped taking it two years previously because it was causing stomach problems and heartburn which I had never had before. So, I got my dental implant and found a good Yoga teacher.

    An Australian friend said she was down graded from osteoposis to osteopenia after taking two Citracal, calcium supplements daily. I buy Citracal brand petites, coated caplets.

    I wish you luck as you find the solutions which works best for you.

    Miss you and Phyllis and hope to see you soon. I had cataract surgery on my right eye on July 11 and will be having cataract surgery on the left eye next Monday. It was so easy and not a trauma at all. Glad I did it as I was able to read the hymn board at church yesterday without wondering if the number was a 6 or an 8.

    Enjoy the rest of your summer.



    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your comment. First one on this post! And thank you for being there for me shortly after I received the diagnosis. Our conversation and your conviction gave me the courage to follow my own path. Great about the ease and success of the cataract surgery. Philip cried on the morning after his. He’d forgotten how blue the sky was, how colorful the world was. Go gently.


  3. Loved reading this blog. Appreciated the metaphors you recognized with your life’s struggles and how constructively you are working to overcome this challenge.

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting on this post. Overcoming challenges is a big part of what this time on earth and in a body is all about, yes? love, joan


  4. It sounds like you are being as pro-active as is possible. Remember Winnie’s situation was that of a 90+ year old person not a spring chicken like yourself. You know me – if you try to cure it it will take a month – if you do nothing it will take 30 days. I heard bad things about Fosamax. Are there any other traditional meds that are used for osteoporosis? I really don’t think you are going to break. On the Sherrie front – after much consideration, we decided to hold off on the surgery. Whatever I have read, says to try all alternative methods for at least 6 months before agreeing to surgery. Any surgery is risky, but a 4 hour operation on the spine, cutting the bone, removing the fluid, and using screws to put it back together has risks. She will continue to go to physical therapy, which does help, although temporarily, and will do the exercises that the PT tec recommends. She is going to go on Thursday for an epidermal shot, which should give her relief. I think deciding not to do the operation gave her relief – if only mentally. Did you book your flights ? L-D


    1. Thanks for your comments and encouragement. I’ll see if all that I’m doing will make a difference when I have the next scan in January. Fingers crossed. So sorry Sherrie is having such a hard time. I hope you can find some natural relief soon. xoxo


  5. Hi Joan, Iam on Prolia (shot twice a year) Oct will be my second shot. I keep my weight down, and eat pretty much a healthy diet. Exercise ,Yoga very similar to your life style. take advice then follow your instinctsMarion


    1. Thank you, Marion. So, you are yet another friend with this diagnosis. Osteoporosis appears to be omnipresent. And yet, few speak of it. I am glad I posted this if for no other reason than that friends are able to know that we are not alone. Osteoporosis has been called a silent condition because there are no symptoms until there is a break. But it would seem that it is also silent in the sense that it is hardly spoken of. Thank you for sharing and let’s keep up with each other’s progress and any important information we may learn along the way. Love.


  6. Your description of your trials with bone loss is very touching, and I am sorry you are having to deal with this. So many of us are afflicted with this condition and wondering what the best course is. Knowing others have the same problem is comforting and pooling our experience and knowledge may be better than conventional medicine. Thanks for openly confronting this issue. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Sandie. So glad to hear from you! And yes! That’s just what I was hoping the post might do!


  7. I too am osteoporotic, something about being of petite stature & a congenital predisposition. Briefly, I tried a conventional medicine – not Fosomax, and stopped taking it. So I substitute Calcium supplements, D-3, and lots of leafy greens in my diet. Also, yoga counts as weight-bearing exercise, & I do strength training & lots and lots of walking. I am going for a bone density scan in December (It’s been 5 years.) and we’ll have to compare results.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, my … we had more in common (coming down the road) than we knew when we took life-saving together (and I failed! ha!) in college. Please, look into adding K-2 to your regimen. The D-3 works much better, I’m told, in combination with K-2. And yes … let me know what you find in December. 5 years! I don’t think I can wait that long! Love to you.


  9. Lovely beginnings today. thank you for saying YES! to Phyllis and Marlys. It’s a very interesting group of women, I’m excited!! This is the reading , learning that I am pulled to, it’s really become an obsession with me. I know I have been searching for a very long time, and I am convinced that this new book (there’s always a new book) that I found.  And if I find one “golden nugget” as marlys said, I am so excited. Am I a wise woman?…I think if one keeps learning, growing ..than that is wise. Search for wisdom Like i said in the meditation group…An un-examined life is not worth living. so my heart reaches out to you in this struggle with osteoporosis. Honestly, I don’t know what to think about it. My mother was given a diagnosis (maybe one of the precursors)  and she took it seriously …just made sure she never fell!!!!  Removed scatter rugs and things that one easily trips over. Stopped doing the stairs to the basement  (put the laundry on the first floor)  Chose shoes more carefully, etc etc. Thought about not falling (something I think we/I never do).  And refused to take Fosamax.  I haven’t heard good things about Fosamax.  Interesting that your dentist said no! My mother once asked me did she have to continue getting mammograms?? in her 80’s that the doctor tells her she has to continue I told her “Mom, the doctor is never going to say you don’t have to have one.” That’s not what Doctor’s do…they can’t be liable for not saying to do it.

    For me every medical thing that comes up can throw me into a panic. I stubbed my toe and cut it… and 3 days later I look at it and think it’s still red it must have a staph infection. It’s all I can do to talk myself down from that cliff… and it’s just a cut on a little toe. Aging we feel vulnerable and the news makes things scary.  So..I don’t have answers but I can offer empathy, compassion and understanding…anytime.Love


    1. Thank you so much, Jo. Empathy, compassion, and understanding are also aspects of wisdom, yes? It would seem that, ultimately, we are compelled to take our lives in our own hands. And as to fear … I heard Elizabeth Gilbert say that as long as she is 1% more curious than fearful, she can carry on. I thought that was wisdom, too. Love.


  10. Thanks for describing the confusion one feels with this sudden diagnosis & then the trust in yourself to go holistically & with exercise.


  11. Joan, I 100% support your use of natural medicine vs. Big pharma! I have always had levels if Vitamin D that were at the bottom of the range even though I took 5,000 units of Vitamin D per day. I read that upping the amount to 10,000 units per day can be very beneficial so I did that and now I am up to 60 percent through the normal range for people and my Hashimotos thyroiditis has responded wonderfully! Vitamin D is so essential and you are doing all the right things. Good luck on your next scan! Love you!


    1. It looks like you’re doing your joanheiman.com homework today :). Thanks. And yes, I also take 10,000 units of D3 combined with another essential (that makes absorption of D3 much more effective) — K2 (in the form of MK7). There’s always something else, eh? But K2 is good for bones and teeth and blood and who knows what else. I haven’t had a cavity since I started taking it 2.5+ years ago (knock on wood or enamel or anything else). Love and health back to you.


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