Sinead Tobin’s story underlines why it is so important that everyone check to see if they have risk factors for developing Osteoporosis.
In 2013, I had my first baby. I had a normal, healthy pregnancy. I felt great and I was so proud of my new arrival. I imagined all the fun things we would do together like bringing her for walks, attending mother baby groups, baby yoga and so on. Things couldn’t get any better! Well, that was until things started to take a U turn.
I began to feel really unwell and suddenly all of the things I had envisaged us doing became huge hurdles. I began to notice unusual symptoms as early as six weeks after having my baby. I was in constant pain, had severe fatigue and I felt my entire posture had changed. My clothes didn’t sit the way they had previously. The shoulders were all too large now, which I found odd.
I visited my GP several times who indicated these were all classic post pregnancy symptoms – fatigue, back and hip pain, ill-fitting clothes. I tried as much as I could to carry on normal day to day activities, like lifting the baby, making the bed, putting washing into the washing machine, carrying a light bag of groceries etc. I thought, do all new mothers feel like this? I knew that this couldn’t be normal.
It soon came to a head, when one afternoon, I simply sat on the couch while holding my baby and I felt a crushing sensation in my left hip, followed by a sharp persistent pain. Some time later, I stooped to pick up a towel from the bathroom floor, when I felt further crunching, again followed by severe pain. Initially, I was embarrassed to admit such a pain was caused by these simple movements. I would have been more accepting had I been involved in an extreme sport accident or similar. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had broken four bones in my back (fractured four vertebrae) and my left hip.
It was at this point that I had lost my independence. As hard as it was to admit, I was no longer in a position to mind my precious new baby myself. I could not be alone with her as I could no longer lift her and found basic movements painful. It broke my heart to see someone else pick her up when she needed attention, before she was passed to me. I went from being completely independent to being dependent on help 24-7.
Around this time, I changed GP and after one visit, I was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, of which osteoporosis is secondary complication. In brief, Cushing’s disease is caused by a benign tumour in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. It produces too much cortisol which affects most tissues in the body, including the bones. It prevents absorption of calcium which in turn, leads to osteoporosis.
I had the tumour removed in December 14 and while in remission, I contacted the osteoporosis society. At this point, I was looking for support, in terms of how I cope with this condition, believing it was a lifetime ailment. It was a scary and depressing thought at the prospect of never being able to lift or hold my daughter. Michele, CEO of the Irish Osteoporosis Society called within minutes of receiving my email. She explained the condition in detail and let me know that it is treatable and most importantly, reversible in certain cases. I would be in a position again to lift my baby! To hear this, was like hearing I had won the lottery.
Osteoporosis is a serious condition. It makes normal life extremely difficult and in my case, robbed me of my independence. The important thing to note however, is any restriction osteoporosis imposes can be temporary but only if you get help as soon as possible. Sadly I have heard since my diagnosis that most people (280,000) are not diagnosed and most will lose their independence. The DXA scan with the LVA (LVA is a DXA of the entire upper back) was instrumental in my diagnosis and it also helped explain why the fractures occurred so easily. Understanding the science behind it also helped me accept the condition. I am fortunate to be in a position where I was diagnosed and put on an immediate treatment plan. I look forward to a day, in the not too distant future, where I can pick up my little girl and carry on life as normal.