Dumbbells in the gym

WTF is all I can say

Am I back to the blog? Yes, I hope so.

This summer has been so hard. So hard. Of course it isn’t over yet, but the first part kept giving WTF moments.

Most of you know that I was dealing with a neverending metatarsal stress fracture. After I finally saw the orthopedist, got a boot, and then started seeing a very good physiotherapist, everything should have been calm and on the way back to a normal and good life. Should have.

In late June I went for a bone density scan. I didn’t expect it to show anything, but it did.

Perhaps when you think of osteoporosis, you imagine a crooked frail old woman of maybe 80 years.

But.

I’m 49 years old and I have osteopenia in my back and osteoporosis in my hips. This is most likely caused by coeliac disease, which untreated causes malabsorption of nutrients, and even when treated (which simply means eating strictly gluten free food), a chronic malabsorption of calcium. I was diagnosed coeliac in 2010 and was never informed about the high risk of developing osteoporosis. If I had known, I would have made other lifestyle choices earlier in life. I heard of other possible complications of untreated coeliac disease, but not this.

After I got the news, I felt my life was over. I was terrified of what it would mean to my life and future. Before, I felt strong and healthy, even with the injury. Now what was I? Old and frail? Suddenly past the best-before date? All the good lifestyle choices I had made recently, was it all too late? Could I still have any quality of life? Did I even want to grow old?

Taking control

After a week in shock and misery, I decided that I had to regain some control of my life, and learn everything there is to know about how I can help myself.

Sadly, most easily accessible information seems to be targeted at people aged 75+ who have never moved their bodies in their entire lives. Honestly, for younger, active women (and don’t forget that men can get this too), most online information is absolutely rubbish and doesn’t help at all because it’s not relatable.

But I’ve been browsing Pubmed and read tons of research, and found interesting studies about the role of resistance training in managing osteoporosis. I already knew it promotes bone strength, but now I learned about how it can increase bone density even in people who have already lost bone mass. There are countless studies supporting this.

The support people

My physiotherapist is an absolute gem. I wasn’t able to start calming down until I saw him about a week and a half after diagnosis. He seemed to know about everything I was thinking and feeling. We talked about lifestyle, exercise, altered self-image, and he confirmed I can continue what I’m doing with only small adjustments and that I can still live a good life. Talking to someone who would take time to listen, deal with my fears and focus the discussion on helping me get back to living my life, made a huge difference.

My personal trainer is the other very important support person, who helps me reverse my thinking, get things into perspective and get back into the jävlaranamma mode, in his usual no-bullshit way. And especially after my foot is back to normal and I no longer go to physiotherapy, he will be the most important person to keep me on track, working on my muscles and bones – and mindset. In addition, when I’m in the gym I feel so normal.

I’ve also learned that a fiddle playing friend of ours has chronic osteoporosis since childhood, she said it runs in her family. She is the best role model to have – now in her 60s, living a good active life with walking, hill walking, travelling and even horseback riding. She’s a huge inspiration to me now.

Learning to live in the moment

But there is still the problem – the future, and what will happen when I get older and enter menopause?

This was an eye opener that made me focus more on health, and if anything, it will teach me to live in the moment, be happy for what I have now, and focus on what’s in my control. I thought I learned this during Covid but I didn’t. For my sanity I’ll have to stop worrying about the future, and honestly, what do we know about the future anyway, with or without medical conditions? We’d better enjoy the life we have now and make the best of it.

I won’t run again because of the risk of getting another stress fracture. But I will be able to walk, hike, lift weights, ride the stationary bike, use the rowing machine. I still have music and other good things in life. I’m still young and in a decent place fitness-wise.

Life goes on. I’ll keep living it. And I’ll take with me the simple words of wisdom my support people have given me lately.

“Don’t let this define you” (physio)
“Don’t overthink it.” (trainer)


This is what’s been on my calendar in July. I’m linking up with Jo, Donna, Sue and Debbie.

38 responses to “WTF is all I can say”

  1. Joanne Tracey avatar

    I can only imagine how that diagnosis must have blindsided you. You got it in one – life goes on and you’ll keep living it. You have age, fitness and attitude on your side. Brilliant post, by the way…

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thank you, Jo. In a way, having it discovered early is a good thing. My scores aren’t the worst, and I can take action and hopefully prevent it from getting worse.
      And the attitude is one of few things I can control!

  2. Sue from Women Living Well After 50 avatar

    Hi Susanne, I’m sorry to hear of your results and I’m sure you were shocked. On a positive note you have been proactive in researching and setting up a support team which will help you stay strong as you age. Take care and I’m glad you are back. xx

    1. Susanne avatar

      Yes, things could have been worse for sure! Knowledge is key and this is in many ways a lifestyle disease (although, not really in my case) which means there are things you can do yourself to help make it better.

  3. Donna Connolly avatar

    Hi, Suzanne – I am so sorry to read this. I am delighted that you have a great physiotherapist and a wonderful personal trainer. Both are invaluable. And as Jo and Sue pointed out, you have age, fitness, mindset and a very positive attitude on your side. Sending warm thoughts your way.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thanks Donna! My attitude is one of the few things I can control so that’s important to work on. And my support team is the best!

  4. Wendy avatar

    Oh, Susanne! I am so sorry to hear this. I have osteopenia–but I am menopausal, have RA and a history of steroid use, and a strong family history of osteoporosis. You look so strong in your photo and that is a good thing–strength training and strong muscles are going to help protect your bones. There are such good medications now to help slow bone loss and even help reverse it. I hope you will be able to access them. Meanwhile, keep doing what you are doing!

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thank you Wendy. I was suspecting you would be at risk. But then you’ve been challenging your bones with running and lifting for much longer than I have!
      The medications for osteoporosis are very scary with the risk of quite debilitating side effects, and a small risk of serious but very rare side effects. This was one reason I was so miserable in the beginning. I was terrified of taking the medication and equally terrified of not taking it! But my GP said it could help me get back to osteopenia only, so I decided to give it a try.
      I started on the medication two weeks ago and I felt like jumping out of an airplane. But I’m doing good so far.
      You are right that strong muscles will help, and my physio is very reassuring about this too.

  5. Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au avatar

    Hi Susanne – so sorry to hear your diagnosis. I’ve been dealing with my parathyroid going berzerk and the risk it brings of osteoporosis and kidney stones. I dealt with it immediately (even though it meant another trip to hospital and another operation less than a year after having my hip done). I hope you find some solutions to the problem – I’ve been told by my surgeon to take calcium and Vit D for the next 6-12 months (and maybe longer) to make sure that my bones have enough calcium. You look great in your photo and I’m sure that being fit and healthy will keep it manageable.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Hi Leanne, you are right that I’m probably in a good place to manage this condition, having a good level of fitness and overall health. I had already made a lot of the lifestyle changes, that will promote bone health, before getting this diagnosis, but have made some more changes now (in terms of food mostly) and I’m taking vitamin D, calcium and magnesium. I also track the calcium contents in my food to try to get as much of it as possible in my diet.
      I’m trying to think that there’s the potential that my bone density has been even worse (before starting strength training, adjusting diet etc) and then it can only get better from here.

  6. Easin' Along avatar

    Suzanne,
    Your attitude and willingness to focus on your treatment will carry you far on the road to better health. I admire your discipline. I wish you well and will follow your progress. Keep playing the music–it will give you much joy.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Aw, thank you. I really have no choice if I want to live a good life as long as possible. I imagine many people would just take the medication and carry on but to me it’s important to bring as many tools as possible to the table to try to reverse this, especially since the medical treatment is quite risky (as I see it), and the lifestyle choices that promote bone health are easy since I’m already doing most of it. Thanks for your well wishes and thanks for visiting! There might be some bluegrass content on this blog shortly so do come back!

  7. Natalie avatar

    Susanne, I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Your positive attitude, fitness and support from your physiotherapist and personal trainer make a big difference in the quality of life. Take care and keep enjoying the present.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Hi Natalie, thank you and I’ll definitely keep enjoying the present. It’s the only way to go!

  8. Debbie Harris avatar

    Hi Susanne, you are very fortunate to have age, fitness, wisdom and supportive people on your side so I wish you all the best. The simple words from your trainer and physio are particularly relevant for many situations we face as we age but pertinent to you as you enter this new phase of life. Enjoying the moment is so important. Thanks for joining us for WBOYC and hope August is a good month.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Hi Debbie, you’re right that those words of wisdom can be applied to many situations in life, especially as we age and go through other changes in life. This time will teach me a lot about living in the present and make the best of it. Thank you and I hope you’ll get a good month ahead too.

  9. Catrina avatar

    So sorry to hear this, Susanne! However, as many wrote, it looks like you will make the best of it with your mindset, your knowledge and your crew.
    When I was injured for a few months and not able to run (nothing compared to your diagnosis), I took up Crossfit. It made me realize that lifting heavy weights was more important than running.
    Your fitness regime is spot on and you will always be fitter than your peers, despite the osteopenia and osteoporosis.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Oh, I certainly hope I can keep up a good mindset but I have no option if I want to keep a decent mental health. Getting back on my feet will help.
      Lifting heavy weights makes a huge difference in so many ways, both with things like osteoporosis/osteopenia, losing weight, improve function, mental health and so much more. Running and other cardio is great but for other reasons!
      Thank you for that last statement in your comment, that was very empowering!

  10. Fedora avatar

    What a wild and unexpected series of events you experienced. Life can throw us some crazy curveballs, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Remember, you’re not alone in facing challenges, and it’s brave of you to share your feelings openly. Take your time to process everything, and remember that it’s okay to take a step back and breathe. You’ve got a supportive community here, cheering you on as you navigate through these moments. Stay strong, and I hope things take a positive turn for you soon.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Hi Fedora! Yes, life takes som unexpected turns and for the moment I’m just waiting for the next blow… but I’m trying to make the best of what I have now and I’m very grateful for both the supportive community here on the blog, and my local support team.

  11. Darlene S Cardillo avatar

    Very sad to hear about this diagnosis.

    I’m not a doctor but I do know women who do run with low bone density but are careful to only increase mileage gradually, wear supportive shoes and strength train.

    Hopefully, you will find medication that helps and an activity that keeps you fit and sane at the same time.

    Good luck. Keep us posted.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Hi Darlene! It’s good to see you again. Yes, I’ve heard of other people who run despite low bone density and it probably works if you do it right but I’ve decided to skip it, and I’m fine with that. We have a stationary bike now and the rowing machine, and I’ll get back to going for longer walks when it’s possible. Strength training is my preferred fitness activity as always (and it’s also what has most effect on bone building) so as long as I can do that I’ll be ok. I’m very impatient to get back to proper walking, and leg training.
      I’ll come back to the weekly rundown this week and plan to keep sharing how things are going.

      1. Darlene S Cardillo avatar

        Do you bike? That may help you get outside in the fresh air.

        Glad to hear that you enjoy strength training.

        1. Susanne avatar

          We have a bike but sadly I’ve never been a fan of (most) outdoor cycling because of traffic, and now I wouldn’t dare to go, knowing I have increased fracture risk if I fall. I’m quite the coward about cycling! However, I’m loving the indoor bike, and will get back on it next week. When the weather is good, I go out in the garden for a bit every day, so it’s ok.

  12. Chocolaterunsjudy avatar

    Oh, I’m so sorry to hear this but you’re right — your life is not over, even if running is. I have some friends with osteoporosis (although older than you). Some are still running, others aren’t. Like most things, it’s a personal decision – – but yes, I’m sure that it was such a shock and I’m sorry. 🙁

    I do think having answers is half the battle. As they say, knowledge is power, but again, there are such mixed messages on this topic! I’m glad you have an excellent team on your side. That will help so much.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thank you, Judy. Sometimes I’ve thought of running despite this but – I’m fine with not doing it and want to focus on strength. I might do some plyometrics later though. We’ll see.
      I agree that knowledge is power. Now I mostly read proper research on Pubmed, and with everything else I try to pick up what makes sense, ditch the rest, and listen to my support people.

  13. Coco avatar

    Ugh! I’m so sorry! I am glad you have a good physio and a good trainer and I like the advice they gave you. There is still a lot you can do, but it sure is a lot to figure out.

    I wanted to get a bone scan b/c my Mom and Aunt have osteoporosis, but my Dr. wouldn’t even order it because I’m too young (55).

    1. Susanne avatar

      That doctor should be ashamed of him/herself, considering your family history! Very strange. At least you can still do what you can when it comes to diet and exercise, to prevent bone loss. It’s good to know the risk so you can take action!

  14. Jenny avatar

    Susanne, I’m sorry I missed this when you first posted it. I have gotten the EXACT SAME DIAGNOSIS. It runs in my family, I’m post menopausal, and I have a very small frame (tiny wrists- all risk factors.) My doctor gave me the option to try a supplement before medication- it’s a bone building supplement with every nutrient you could imagine- nine pills a day! – and I’ve been taking it for two years now. I’m due for another scan and I’m afraid to find out the results- but I have to know if what I’m doing is helping. This is also a big reason why I switched over to lifting heavier weights. Lifting heavy is supposed to be better for your bones. Anyway- you can definitely build back bone density. I’ll get my next bone scan soon, and let’s share info and support each other in this. We will be okay! We can get our bones strong again.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Oh no Jenny, I’m so sorry! I’m taking medication. I’m super scared doing it but decided to give it a try until the next scan and see what it can do. I’ve also started taking vitamin D (I was a bit naive thinking I didn’t need to take supplements, living in Northern Europe!) but couldn’t tolerate the calcium tablets my dr gave me because of the artificial sweeteners, so I’m taking another one but try to cover as much as possible in my diet. My husband bought me some “super milk” with extra everything, and one protein drink with that (I use whey protein) gives 600 mg of calcium! I have to start taking one each day, not only on gym days. I’m also taking magnesium, zinc and selenium.
      I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you and your next scan!
      I’ve also learned that lifting heavy is better for the bones (perhaps you saw the link to the Liftmor study in my rundown post). Both of us are in a good place since we already have an active lifestyle with lifting weights. If I didn’t have this stress fracture I wouldn’t let this stop me from running, but the biggest risk factor for having a stress fracture is having had a stress fracture previously, so… no. And I’m fine with not running.
      Definitely let’s support each other! Feel free to reach out at any time.

  15. Jessie avatar

    Susanne, I’m sorry to read your news, but glad you have your supportive husband and trainer and a plan. I think you’ll be able to manage this and still have a full healthy active life. Thinking of you!

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thanks Jessie. Yes, now when I’ve recovered from the initial crisis, I can see thatI’ll be able to manage this and keep living a good life. My support people are fantastic!

  16. Anne avatar

    Oh, Susanne, what a blow this must have been, particularly given your focus on your health and improving your strength. That said, it also indicates a possible reason that you sustained your stress fracture.
    So glad you have a plan, support, and are moving forward. Yet again, you show your grit.
    And… just wanted to say this… from the outside, no matter how many times you are knocked down, you ALWAYS get back up. You have an amazing capacity to persevere, and I hope you realize that.

    1. Susanne avatar

      Yes, this was an awful punch in the face but after days of misery (and now we’re talking real misery, I’ve never been so close to diving into depression), I had to find ways to regaining control over my life and do what I could to help myself and make life as good as possible. I wouldn’t have survived this mentally if it wasn’t for the support from my physiotherapist and personal trainer, each in their own way and I needed both. Then later in July, going away to the bluegrass festival and then having my sister visiting was the perfect distraction which also helped me get back on track.
      What you say about my grit and perseverance makes me so happy – thank you! I’ve never thought of myself as a person with grit, and it’s a character I’d love to have.

  17. Denyse Whelan avatar

    I am so sorry this is the outcome for you but also glad to realise just how you are managing.
    Denyse

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thanks Denyse. After I started retaking control and doing everything I can to manage it, I’ve been better. I’ve realised lately though that getting this diagnosis was quite traumatising, however I’m determined to not let it define me and to continue living a good life.

  18. Debbie Harris avatar

    It’s good to read your honest update Susanne and to hear that you’ve got good people working with you. It really must have been awful for you and I agree it’s definitely a lot of trauma for you to handle. Thanks for joining us for #WBOYC and lovely to have you back!

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thanks Debbie, yes this was a very traumatic event and I didn’t really realise how much until months later. But I’m so thankful for the people around me who have helped and keep helping me to normalise life, have some hope and keep going.

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