“I am 66-years old and was diagnosed with severe osteoporosis only after decades of painful fractures.

As a child I helped around my family’s farm and was very active: always running, jumping and playing outside in the sun. I also drank “real” cow milk. I continued to lead a physically active lifestyle as an adult.

Then, at the age of thirty, I experienced a rib fracture. At the time I thought ‘that’s normal, it can happen’. I had another fracture at the age of 40 and subsequently several rib fractures. I questioned whether this was indeed normal, but the doctor didn’t take me seriously and reassured me that slalom is a rather dangerous sport and anyone with slippery shoes can fall on an icy street. And of course I knew my self – my mind is always way ahead of my body – so little accidents can happen… There was also no real explanation for the excruciating back pain. I was told that the vertebral discs had become partly thinner, but not to worry, everyone has degenerative arthritis.

As a result, for many years my life was filled with pain and my quest for a diagnosis included visits to various doctors, X-rays, physiotherapy – a frustrating and expensive odyssey. I even spent a whole year working only 2 days a week to see whether my health would improve. This turned out to have no effect – in the end it was always painkillers and “on with life” regardless of the pain.

In 2001, as I leaned over the back of the chair in our kitchen, something snapped in my chest. My wife refused to believe that a broken bone could “just happen” for no reason. Inspired by an ad in a newspaper, I made one phone call to a private medical center and an appointment for a DXA. The result of the DXA clearly showed that I had very serious osteoporosis.

I took the DXA-results to the company doctor at work and after that to the university hospital. A series of examinations revealed the whole picture: how serious my osteoporosis was and why I had it. I was also diagnosed with silent celiac disease, a mal absorption disorder in which the body’s ability to absorb protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and vitamin D, is greatly reduced. Since both calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health, this partly explains why osteoporosis is so common in celiac disease. This also explained why I had low haemoglobin counts, and suffered from tiredness, weight loss and many infections.

Although osteoporosis had been diagnosed, the official medical center could offer me very little information. I was lucky that I was accepted for a self help course, which was organised by the Finnish Osteoporosis society. I met people who were in the same position as I was. After discussions together and after the lessons held by professionals, I found out how I could cope and move forward with my life.

Now I am long since retired. My back is fragile and I can’t lift over 5 kg. How I wished that I could lift our sweet little grandchild on to my lap! Shopping bags quickly become too heavy for me to lift safely. Sitting long periods is very difficult – walking at times very painful. But I need to keep myself moving and fortunately I live in a house with a garden and I work there as much as I can. Another hobby is Nordic walking, which I didn’t know much about before my osteoporosis-diagnosis.

Because one reason for my osteoporosis was celiac disease, I follow a very exact gluten-free diet. During the last five years I have taken medicine for my osteoporosis, calcium and vitamin-D tablets. Exercise, which I used to do occasionally, is now a routine part of my everyday life. To maximize my safety in case of a fall, I wear hip protectors every day and in winter I wear spike-soled shoes when I go out.

The good news is that my bones are in a better shape than they used to be. The DXA-measurement last year showed that my bone mass has improved 20 % compared to the results of the first DXA.

I believe that with exercise, medication, calcium and vitamin D, my bone health has improved. That’s why I’m not afraid of ageing. I know that by taking charge of my lifestyle, I can positively influence my health – and my bones will continue to carry me into the future.”

This personal story was updated in 2014

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