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Bonnie Daue, New Zealand

Bonnie Daue has osteoporosis. She is 67 years old and lives in Wellington with her husband Roy – an invalid aged 81 to whom she gives round the clock care. Bonnie has two married daughters and four grandchildren. This is her story.

Bonnie Daue, New Zealand
Bonnie Daue (top left) with daughter Helen and granddaughters Sasha (left) and Christina.

"At the age of 49 I had a full hysterectomy, including removal of my ovaries, as a result of cancer. I believe my oestrogen level, which helps calcium enter the bones, was reduced considerably. Slowly, my bones began to weaken but I didn't know it then.

The first inkling of something wrong came six years later when I fell over in a supermarket and hurt my neck. I wore a neck brace for several weeks, taking it off only for my daughter's wedding. Looking back at the wedding photos I can see that my neck and shoulders are humped.

In my late 50s I broke several ribs falling over a box and in my early 60s I broke several ribs again when I turned swiftly to brush my cat off the kitchen bench. You would have thought that the penny might have dropped by then, but I never thought something was seriously wrong.

Then in 1995, at the age of 63, I fell off a ladder. I was just three or four rungs high off the ground. I broke a leg, fractured my sternum, cracked my collar-bone, chipped an elbow and again broke four ribs. It was only then that I was diagnosed as having osteoporosis. I was advised to have a bone density scan which showed that I was in extreme risk of serious fracture of my hips or spine.

My doctor put me on a programme of daily medication to build up my bone mass which I've kept up over the last four years. And I do a special set of exercises for people with osteoporosis when I remember to!

My bones are still extremely brittle – last year when bringing in the groceries from the car I used my little finger to lift a plastic supermarket bag containing two 1-litre cartons of milk and it snapped.

I live in fear of having a major fall – not just for myself but what it would mean for my husband's welfare. That's a real worry.

For me, osteoporosis isn't painful, apart from the odd backache, but it does cramp my style because I can never put myself in a position where I might fall.

Living with osteoporosis means:

  • I must be careful all the time
  • I must not hurry, especially on uneven surfaces and on rainy days
  • I must keep my dog Gemmi on a short leash when I walk her each day so I don't get tangled up and trip over
  • I must not wear high heels
  • I must limit alcohol or better still abstain
  • I must carry in groceries in small amounts, making several trips up 17 stairs
  • I must no longer dig the vegetable garden or climb or stretch up to trim trees
  • I must only spring clean things I can reach from floor level

Most of all, it means not being able to run around with my grandchildren – I'm the person sitting on the beach minding the shoes instead of exploring the rockpools. That hurts.

There's another downside. I've shrunk from 5'8'' to 5'6'' due to my spine breaking down. I used to pride myself on being a tall, slim woman. I don't like how I look now.

The good news is that with ongoing treatment my bone density has grown by 1% and I still live a full active life – just a bit more carefully than I used to."

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