Medicine Man

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I have had a good week.

I have been on two walks, each about 6.5 miles.  One of these was absolutely stunning, and both were from outside our own front door.  We are very lucky to live in the Pennine foothills.

In addition to the walks, I have had time with all four of the UK based grandchildren, been involved in a Hallé Choir Academy rehearsal in Manchester, participated in a very good yoga class at my nearby municipal leisure centre, coloured my hair a fetching bright copper colour, been to a comedy night at the pub down the road, and attended three excellent classical music concerts in Manchester, two of which were free.  I have also done a bit of work (seen a supervisee and two clients).  And, I have seen my GP.

I first went to see the GP a few weeks ago.  My daughter and her brood went back to New Zealand (again) on 27th March, 2017, shortly after our youngest son moved out (again) on March 21st.  And so, in early April, my husband and I were busy re-organising, cleaning and shifting furniture in the three bedrooms they had all occupied.  I noticed myself becoming a bit dizzy, as I often do on exertion these days.  I have always had a tendency to postural hypotension (my blood pressure suddenly drops when I stand up quickly, and I feel a bit dizzy), but I have never actually fainted with it.  I have noticed that it has got a bit worse of late, especially when I am charging around like a two year old.  On this occasion, I had to suddenly lie down in the middle of the landing, because if I had not, I would have fainted.  And so, I saw the doc.

He duly ordered a baseline ECG, and some blood tests.  I mentioned that I was also thinking about asking for a referral to the local osteoporosis clinic, since I was diagnosed in 2010 and have so far resisted medication.  In truth, I thought it might be a way to get them to do another bone density scan, because I had been refused any more of those by one of the other GPs after my last scan results.  His view was, I have the diagnosis and I should therefore take the treatment.  The trouble is, that our mum was stuck on the usual treatment (alendronic acid) and forgotten about.  It made her vomit every morning, and did nothing to stop her suffering repeated spinal fractures, which left her bent every which way.  I am very, very wary of the stuff.  So instead, I had deliberately been requesting the scans every two years or so, plotting the results on a graph, and doing everything I could to self-manage.  This includes weight bearing exercise, eating prunes (for the Boron), and taking an expensive supplement that contains easily digestible calcium, vitamins D3 and K2, and magnesium.  My bone density in 2015 was no worse in my spine than in 2011, and actually better in my hips.  My hips have never been osteoporotic, and in fact were better in 2015 than in 2008.  I put this down to all the walking I do. I confess I felt pretty pleased with myself, but when I was told I could have no more scans it worried me.  How would I know when and if my self-management was no longer working?

My GP and I agreed it was not worth me being referred, until we knew what was going on with my dizzy spells.  And so, here I was on Friday of this week (yesterday, in fact), seeing the doc for my results.

Well, surprise, surprise, all the bloods were fine, and so was my ECG.  I thought that might be the case, actually.  I am just getting older!  And still pounding the hills.  And so, I brought up the issue of my osteoporosis, and a possible referral.  My GP looked at me, and asked: ‘If they give you alendronic acid, what will you do?’ I think he is getting to know me by now.  I had to admit, that I would probably refuse.  However, I did say that my personal cut-off point is a T score of -3.  In other words, if my bone density gets so bad that my bone density is three standard deviations below that of a 30 year old, I will take the dreaded drugs.  A score of -2.5 constitutes osteoporosis.

And so, much to my surprise, my GP suggested that the best thing to do would be to send me for another scan – and then when the results come back, we will look at them together.  And so, that is what is going to happen.  I confess, I was amazed.  He is such a lovely chap, and very respectful.  I don’t want to do him a disservice.  He is a very kind man, and probably would be this lovely with any patient.  I can’t help wondering, though, what would happen if I did not have such a lovely GP?  What if I were not white, middle class, well-educated and articulate?  How often, I wonder, do women of my age get put on these drugs and forgotten about, just as my mother was? And if I had dementia, would anyone be able to advocate for me?  It doesn’t bear thinking about. That day might come, but in the meantime, I will continue to do what I can, to protect my bones and enjoy life to the full.

I am always interested to hear about others’ experience with the issues I am writing about.  Please do feel free to comment, on this or any other blog posts you see here.

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