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July 27, 2014

Osteoporosis and Other Fun Things

I went to a new doctor the other day for a physical. The first thing she said when she walked into the room was "Oh, I guess they don't have your birthdate wrong. I thought that was a typo!"

My medical records from the past decade are a fat stack of DEXA scans, x-rays and MRIs - all indicating a series of stress fractures and varying degrees of osteoporosis. To someone who doesn't know me, I guess it does look like the medical record of an 80 year old woman.

This new doctor's deep concern for my bones got me thinking about when I first found out what I'd done to them. My first bone density scan revealed a spine that was 3 standard deviations below normal, which is classified as severe osteoporosis with a high risk of fracture. I was 18 with 80 year old bones.

It's not normal to get these types of scans in your teens, or 20s, or 30s, or 40s. I went to the doctor with hip pain, which x-rays and MRIs found to be a stress fracture. The fact that it was in my hip raised a red flag, so they did the scan to check on my bone strength. From there, the whole situation came tumbling out into the light.

Osteoporosis becomes a problem for women after menopause, because bones are regulated by estrogen. Estrogen helps control the lifespan of osteoclasts (cells that break down bone), and speeds up the activity of osteoblasts (cells that build bone). Without estrogen, the osteoclasts live longer and break down more bone than they're supposed to. Osteoblasts, on the other hand, are less active than normal. The result is that bone breaks down faster than it builds, and starts to look like Swiss cheese.

I spent two YEARS breaking down my bones faster than normal due to amenorrhea caused by not eating. No wonder I was on the verge of breaking a hip!

The Cornell doctors told me I would likely have osteoporosis forever. They said I was reaching the end of the bone-forming period of life, and there was only a small chance that some of the damage could be reversed.

Ironically, the thing that helped me most was the world's worst nutritionist. Cornell's horribly uninformed nutritionist told me, and I quote, "Clearly, you can never be trusted to take care of yourself."  That enraged me.

For the next year, I took massive Vitamin D supplements and ate 3 servings of dairy every day. There was a possible link between carbonation and caffeine and bone loss, so I didn't drink anything that contained either of those (yup, no beer or coffee for a year of college!).  Mostly, I just ate enough. I made the decision to stop trying to starve my body into something it wasn't.

One year later, I got another scan. The density of my spine had increased by 10.5%, and I'd gone up to just 2 standard deviations below normal.

Two years later, I got a third. Up another 8%, and just 1.5 standard deviations below.

Three years later, a fourth scan showed more progress. And last week, at age 26, I got my fifth and final scan:

8 years after the doctors told me I'd have osteoporosis for life, my bones CONTINUE to prove them wrong! Cornell nutritionist, I'll have your job now.

Other than that big confirmation that nutrition and the human body are the most incredible and fascinating things in the world, there has been lots of fun!

There was America's birthday in the nation's capital (almost as fun as the 4th abroad last year):

Fireworks on the roof:


Boating in Annapolis with Aeriel and friends:

Followed by all the ice cream:

There was Tour de PA with Allison and Frank, which started with Victory brews:

Mr. Germano ate a cannoli at Carlino's:

Renee and Dez got married!!


We went to blueberry heaven:

And bookended the weekend with Lancaster Brewing.

There were drinks with co-worker friends:

And with roomies:

And Nats:

And apartment dance lessons:


And lastly, with my semi-permanently healthy bones and this new veggie phone case, I feel like a whole new person.  :P

See ya!

1 comment:

  1. You go girl! So happy for you. And so many good times this summer :)