It’s my birthday next week. Well, this week I think… technically. Thursday, March 31. I’ll be 28.
I’m still pretty little kid-ish about my birthdays. I count down the sleeps remaining, I make plans for a birthday party. There’s hell to pay if there’s no cake. All the usual things. I have to give up a lot of things in pretending to be a mature adult, but I’m not giving up my birthday excitement.
This year is a little different, though.
I’ll be spending my birthday at the chronic pain clinic’s day program (a fatigue and a half’s worth of effort to say the least), which isn’t doing much to usher in a new year’s worth of excitement and promise. But don’t worry, this story gets better.
My doctors have been pestering me for the last couple of years to get a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) scan. I’ve got plenty of good reasons – malabsorption, chronic critically low Vit D, history of falls, minor trauma fracture, history of eating disorder, long-term steroid use… The works. But it’s always fallen by the wayside. There’s always something else that’s just a little more important to care about. Right now, it’s chiari malformation and my 10 week long migraine.
A routine GP visit (after a bad hip dislocation) reminded my doctor that I was due for my yearly echocardiogram (heart ultrasound). She figured while I was scheduling scans, I might as well suck it up and get my bone density sorted.
We didn’t expect for my scans to show anything. Despite all my risk factors, I’m very young for bone density problems. We just needed baseline results to compare my idea of ‘healthy bones’ to in the future.
But we were wrong.
I’m in early stages of osteoporosis of the hip. My lumbar spine is looking pretty great, but my hips? Not so much. This is of particular concern to my doctors, because my hips dislocate frequently – and I’m the world’s worst candidate for a hip replacement. If the neck of my femur (where it joins onto the ‘ball’ bit that goes into your hip) were to fracture during a dislocation… well… that’s not going to be good for anyone involved. Mostly me.
I’m gutted. I haven’t spoken much about it because I’m still processing it and I just don’t know how I’m meant to come to terms with this. We’ve caught it early. Treatment and preventative measures are available. They’re not even difficult ones for me to take – regular blood tests to keep an eye on my calcium (which we already do for my liver/kidney function and vit d/ferritin), and a 6-monthly injection. That’s all.
But is it? My brain just can’t seem to agree. Maybe it’s the timing. 4 days until my 28th birthday and I’m just starting to reach the age where I look at young people in their early 20s and sigh, remembering the foolishness of youth (while also reserving my right to still be that foolish youth sometimes).
I’m not in my 40s, watching my children blossom into adult independence. I’m not in my 50s, looking forward to grandchildren. I’m not in my 60s, hoping to avoid the worst of elderly decline for awhile yet. I’m not in my 70s, when bone mineral density scans are actually indicated for age.
42 more years until the government has deemed it medically necessary for me to have a bone mineral density scan because it’s normal for my body to break, and maybe we should do something about it. That’s the entire span of my life, and then another third. That’s how long it should be before I’m staring down the barrel of 6-monthly subcutaneous injections for the rest of my life.
I’m caught in this horrible conundrum. I’m simultaneously grateful for doctors who care enough to pester me into tests they feel I need, while also wanting to rage at the universe for needing those doctors at all. I’m grateful the results were available quickly, that treatment is easily accessible, and the same doctors are immediately on top of making sure that treatment is in hand – no fighting for it, for me. I’m grateful that it’s only early stage osteoporosis – but I’m also really, really not.
I’m not fucking grateful that the universe has thrown yet another curve ball at me.
I’m not fucking grateful I have to get post-menopausal old lady bone jabs because my body fucking sucks.
I put off scans and doctor’s appointments sometimes because I just don’t want to add another thing to my ever-growing list of ‘You’re too young for that!’ (tell that to my body).
I don’t want to hear a doctor sighing and scribbling a brand new diagnosis onto my list, whether we’ve suspected its existence or otherwise.
I just want it all to stop. I have enough things, body. Universe, I’m good. My list is full. We can stop now.
But we can’t stop, and I’m still meant to be grateful for all the little ‘it could have been worse’ moments that other people don’t have to deal with. Somehow, despite being covered in more shit than most people will when they’re 42 years older than me, I’m meant to dig out this sunshine and rainbows view.
A view perfectly healthy, work-stressed, do-I-want-to-get-married? almost-28 year olds haven’t even gotten close to mastering, and somehow I need to have learnt enough resilience to survive the onslaught I never asked for.
If we’re out at the same thing – or in the same little conversations – and you see me buried in my own world? Come hug me. Don’t tell me it will be okay, because it’s not. Don’t tell me that it’s shit, because you don’t know the half of it.
Just tell me we’re catching up, even when I’m exhausted and in my pyjamas and just can’t get my brain around why your life is okay and mine isn’t.
Just tell me that you’re there, whether it’s for drinking tea or drinking amazingly huge cocktails.
Just tell me happy birthday.