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Carmen Sanchez, Spain

Carmen Sanchez

I suffer from osteoporosis. I discovered it by chance. In 1995 I began suffering very strong back pain, which forced me to reduce my physical activity. At that time I didn't know that I had osteoporosis. As it is common in people of a certain age, I attributed the back pain to the "aging effect". But as time went on it was more difficult to do the daily tasks at home and I lost agility and mobility. There was also the emotional damage that resulted from my loss of physical strength and the feeling that I needed to depend more and more on my family. This was especially difficult because I used to be a very active person, with multiple interests and jobs to perform, both at home and outdoors.

I went to visit my family doctor. This first visit demonstrated how deficient knowledge about this illness is among family doctors. He just prescribed some pain-killers and advised me to change some habits and to stick to some soft sport. He also suggested that I resign myself to this because, in his opinion, all this was due to aging and there wasn't any other solution but "put up with it".

For the next couple of years I followed all his indications but, in spite of it, the main problem didn't improve. The pain was intense and my activity kept reducing itself. The doctor prescribed stronger painkillers then but, as they didn't made any effect he changed the prescription to anti-inflammatory drugs. As all of you know, these are quite dangerous. It is true that they reduce the pain but they also cause several secondary effects. In my own case, they caused a gastric ulcer which forced me to consume more medicines, in order to cure their harmful consequences.

During a visit to an old people's home, I accidentally saw a poster with an interesting inscription: "if you care about your bones, take care of them". There was also a phone number from the Spanish Osteoporosis Association. This phrase made me think that there could be a different approach to treating bone diseases.

I dialed this number and explained my situation and the result of my visits to my family doctor. I told them about my feelings, that all these symptoms were not just a consequence of aging; I explain my feeling of impotence, because not only was I not improving but I was feeling worse and worse as time went by.

The person who answered my phone call asked me a series of simple questions as when did my menopause begin and if I had performed a DXA, something I didn't even know existed. They recommended that I ask my doctor for this test. Bearing in mind that I had suffered a total hysterectomy at 35, without any hormonal treatment afterwards, and no additional calcium ingestion it was more than probable that my bone density decreased rapidly.

In my following research I found out about the existence of a Menopause Unit where I could perform the DXA test. But as hard to believe as it is, it took me more than two years to have access to the test. Burocracy, lack of means, ignorance about the illness were, in my opinion, the main reasons why I had such difficulty in getting a test which should be accessible to any woman susceptible of suffering osteoporosis.

With this first DXA it was clear that I had suffered an important loss of bone density.

But my case is not an isolated one. In my private research I have discovered that this picture repeats itself over and over. This story repeats itself for many, many woman.

Fortunately, my life has changed from those years. Actually I'm into an adequate treatment that has really helped me to improve my health. I'm also more aware of the importance of doing sports and taking care of my diet. All these are very important weapons to fight against osteoporosis.

Now I'm back to my daily activity and I feel like myself again. I don't need to depend on others anymore. But I lost three precious years that I could have used to improve my condition, to prevent the illness to go further and to avoid pain and suffering.

There is indeed one thing I have learnt: that an accurate diagnosis, which is relatively simple, can save women from a lot of suffering, fractures and emotional damage.

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