World Osteoporosis Day

Maria Filomena

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My name is Maria Filomena, I’m 58 years old, originally from Castelo Branco but have been living in Coimbra for many years. I have had many fractures, two compound fractures any many other micro-fractures.

My first fracture occurred when I was quite young. My arm got caught between a sliding door, and it fractured. I went to the hospital and was treated normally, because I didn’t have osteoporosis, but even at the time the doctor prescribed calcium supplements, which I started taking regularly. But with time my bone health began deteriorating, especially affecting my arms and back. Essentially, that’s what happened.

Two years ago I underwent surgery for stomach cancer and that’s when my bones seriously began deteriorating. Now I’m in the state that I am, receiving regular treatment at the rheumatology and osteoporosis department at the hospital. Let’s see how much I can bear while I’m still here.

The biggest change in my life has been my diet – I now try to have healthier meals, with a greater emphasis on calcium. I feel quite limited. I’m very careful and try to avoid falls. I can’t fall!

I’m very scared of falling and becoming confined to a wheelchair – that’s what I’ve been told can happen to me. So this complicates my life a bit. Falling and breaking a leg, a hip, or another bone can make my situation even worse.

©Gilberto Lontro/IOF

I have four boys, two of which still live with me. This situation also affects me. I had a full house and all of a sudden it’s a bit less full. It terrifies me to think that one day they may have similar problems to the ones I am living through now. I try to call their attention to certain habits and actions they have, like bad posture, that may have a negative impact on their bone health in the future. But it isn’t always easy to do this in younger generations.

For them, for my kids, it’s difficult to go out with someone who has mobility difficulties. I imagine it’s difficult for them to see that their mother isn’t what she used to be. This limits pretty much everything. So I feel heartbroken. I try to be understanding; they’re young and can walk quickly, but I can no longer do that. I really can’t any more.

Living in Coimbra doesn’t help. The city is hilly and that creates a mobility barrier that hadn’t previously existed.

Although there is progress in accessibility with many places having ramps, there are still quite a few that only have stairs. And if the stairs don’t have a hand railing, I can’t go up or down, mostly due to fear, but also because my balance has decreased. But the situation is improving, so I’m able to move around quite freely.

©Gilberto Lontro/IOF

Actually, I had been working until one year ago. The laboratory for which I was the technical director closed and I was forced into unemployment, a situation I’m still in today. But it was almost a good thing, because I was working about 100 km from home, commuting every day, and it wasn’t easy. Getting up and down from public transportation was proving more and more difficult – sometimes I would get a ride from colleagues, other times I would drive, but it was never easy.

©Gilberto Lontro/IOF

At the moment I’m taking all sorts of vitamins, from vitamin D, to vitamin C, to iron, and many many more to see if I can get this under control. But it’s really very complicated – I have permanent anemia so they have only been able to improve my situation with injectable iron. And the doctor that is treating me has even said: “Avoid falling at any cost, because if you do fall, it’ll be very difficult to not end up in a wheel chair”.

People need to take care of their bones from an early age because I get the impression that this disease is preventable before reaching menopause.

Once menopause has arrived the lower levels of hormones contributes to lower bone density. And this should be instilled in adolescents that this actually happens! And cases like mine, of people like me, that aren’t too old but that are almost completely incapacitated: we live our lives from within our homes, and when we do need to go out, it is with a lot of suffering. Not being able to place our feet on the floor sometimes and get up due to the pain – it’s very complicated. So yes, we need to instill in younger adults that they need to take care of their bones and prevent osteoporosis beforehand, because after menopause arrives it is definitely more difficult to reverse the effects. Having to take all this medication… because with osteoporosis come other debilitating diseases and you end up feeling, quite literally, like a worn out rag.

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