Happily married mother-to-two adult daughters and grandmother-to-two, Jill, 62, Yinnar South, Victoria, broke her toe in 2012 when stepping out of a bath.
Jill, who has no known family history of osteoporosis, continued to soldier on, paying little attention to her fracture up until December 2015 when a routine bone density scan revealed her bones were equivalent to that of a 75-to-79 year old.
Armed with this perturbing information, Jill returned home to conduct further research on the topic. Her growing anxiety about fracturing another bone saw her promptly return to her doctor, who subsequently diagnosed her with osteoporosis.
This is Jill’s story.
“When I had my bone density scan in December 2015, I was given a report which featured red all over it,” Jill said.
“The doctor explained my femur was equivalent to a 75 year old’s, and my spine to that of a 79 year old, but I was only 62 years old!”
Prior to her diagnosis of osteoporosis, Jill knew “next to nothing” about the bone disease. She had no known family history of osteoporosis, or any weak bones, that she was aware of.
“When I visited my GP for a routine check-up in December last year, she questioned whether I had ever broken any bones. I informed her about my broken toe four years prior.
“That’s when she grew increasingly concerned and informed me about osteoporosis,” said Jill.
Not wanting to create any fuss at the time, Jill returned home to further research the disease. After extensive reading, Jill chose to remove all of the rugs from her home to minimise her risk of tripping.
When she returned to her doctor, Jill was prescribed osteoporosis bone-building medication. Due to experiencing side effects from this medication, she was promptly switched to another, and has since remained stable.
“I feel perfectly well at present, and have been able to stay active since commencing this treatment.
“I walk a lot and garden, and I’ve just taken up running for the first time in my life.
I’ve been participating in ‘parkrun’ – free, weekly, timed, five kilometre runs in beautiful parks,” Jill said.
Apart from breaking her toe, Jill claims to have experienced no other issues with her bones to date.
“When I broke my toe five years ago, I got it strapped, it got better, and up until my doctor flagged her concerns about my bone health, I had almost forgotten about it,” said Jill.
Nowadays however, Jill is significantly more cautious about minimising her risk of falls.
“I take more care to avoid falling these days. For instance, if I go out into the garden, I hold onto the wall, and take more care in general while gardening.
“I also have osteoarthritis which causes me pain, and alerts me to the importance of maintaining healthy, strong bones,” Jill said.
Jill has recently joined Osteoporosis Australia, and used the organisation’s online bone health assessment tool, developed in partnership with The Garvan Research Institute, to self-assess her risk of further fracture.
“It’s an amazing tool, and one I wish I had known about prior to my fracture and diagnosis of osteoporosis.
“It would have been good to have been aware of my bone health and risk of fracture, pre-diagnosis,” said Jill.
Jill has an appointment next month with leading, Melbourne-based endocrinologist and Medical Director of Osteoporosis Australia, Professor Peter Ebeling, to glean more insights on osteoporosis, her risk of re-fracture, and how to best combat the so-called “silent” disease.
In the interim, she has modified her diet to include foods rich in calcium, and is conscious whenever exercising, to both strengthen, and care for, her bones.
“If you don’t know whether you’re at risk of osteoporosis, I recommend jumping online the Know Your Bones assessment tool today, and learning all about your risk of the disease, and how to prevent fractures, or delay their onset for as long as possible.
“After all, if you don’t know your risk of osteoporosis, then how can you expect to combat the silent disease?” Jill questioned.