Say No to Pharmaceuticals, A Different Kind of Post

I decided to write my medical story after deciding to be a human guinea pig. Why not document my results in hopes of helping others?

First, a short intro: When I chose to retire after 30 years as an educator and counselor for NYSUT, I sacrificed my 100% retirement and went two years without a salary (I started at 21 and hence couldn’t collect even my smaller percentage until I hit 55). I chose wisely though. I couldn’t take another harsh New York State winter, nor the equally cold public living in that God forsaken area.

Suffice to say, from 2016 to 2018, I gladly scrimped here in Florida, worked two jobs, and am proud to say in July of 2017, I worked 33 days straight. The upside, I was warm and healthy. That last word is key; I avoided doctors and dentists for two years, saving co-pays fortunately except for one nasty sinus infection. That’s right, no check ups, annual visits, with the exception of 6 month dermatologist skin checks having had surface melanoma and basal cell while in Upstate New York.

Once my pension kicked in, I decided to be more ‘mature’ and responsible and begin the gamut of physicals. I knew from my last gynecologist appointment in New York, by my long term and caring physician William Harvey that I had osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis). His take on this condition was; start weightlifting everyday and increase your calcium intake. He also said that any bone density medication should be saved until the last 10 years of life, due to possible side effects. I took his advice.

Now four years later, I decided I should probably have a bone scan done again. I gladly and happily walked the 2 and a half miles to the doctor as I love to be outside (and got rid of my car living in a walkable and bus commutable city). Again, not bragging, just tell you how healthy I am.

I did not think about this until later, again being the ‘good girl’ and going to my appointments, that having a combo mammogram and bone scan appointment (which I was talked into since they were in the same building) might be a bit of a radiation overload. But again, I trust (-ED, past tense now) medical professionals and had no averse effects from any previous mammo or bone scan, so what the hey.

In the P.A.’s office afterward, a beautiful and articulate woman came in with an equally pretty intern. I mention these descriptors only because if one is going to direct a drug advertisement, it’s much better to have a good looking spokesperson. In the moment however, I was merely impressed by her smooth and professional demeanor. The P.A. detailed that I now had full on osteoporosis and that one of my discs was at a negative 2.8.

I wasn’t flabbergasted by the diagnosis, but the minus disc measurement did freak me out. My first question was: I run 3 and a half miles every day on pavement, should I stop, already envisioning my spine breaking in half as I ran merrily parallel to Lido Beach. Her response was immediate, “Oh no, keep going, just don’t fall down.” Ooooo.kkkkkk.

Funny enough I had fallen a year previous, stupidly yacking on my cell phone, while going too briskly over uneven bricks and literally almost did a face plant. Points of body to brick contact were right knee, right wrist, right bottom lip. I credit a full body blow to not allowing anyone area to take the full brunt. But surely, had my bones been decrepit that would have been the time to crack.

The P.A. continued her smooth talk by telling me a host of different medications I could begin immediately along with a carrot of, if you try this monthly med first and it doesn’t work, insurance will cover a miracle once a year infusion. This insight now only in hindsight: In other words, be the trial and error with pills and if we don’t kill you with that, we have another more successful* torture chamber down the road.

The one ominous thing she had said was, ‘what ever you do, don’t take this and lay down after’. This was a funny statement to me, as I get up, run my 3 and a half and then it’s off to the races of life. I can’t remember the last time I laid down before it was bed or sexy time….but still the way she said it seemed quite odd.

A mixture of fear and shock had me waiting at Publix to get my Boniva, which she wanted me to start immediately, even though she had also given me a script for blood work to check my para thyroid after my explaining that not only do I get a daily does of vitamin d, I eat 95 of my calcium intake in one sitting every day inhaling frozen yogurt by the pint.

Once home, deciding at the last minute not to invest in meds until the blood work was back, I sat down to research. A host of articles came up about jaw deterioration being a serious side effect of Boniva. I kept searching hoping there would be as many successful posts, though only a scant few were found.

Since we now have patient portals, I decided to write my concern to the P.A. as she had said to feel free to reach out with any questions. So I did ask about the jaw fear, which she had glazed over during our visit. I was also anxious since I had lock jaw as a toddler and had no idea if I have some unknown weakness due to that.

She responded that the chances of me having a jaw problem side effect were the equivalent of getting struck by lightening. I filed this in the back of my mind and decided still to hold off on meds until after my blood test.

Then, approximately 18 to 24 hours after my bone scan, I felt strange. First it was fatigue after running, which I don’t feel especially since the day prior I had swam to take pressure off my feet. Then other symptoms sprang up: hip, back pain, hoarseness, bloody nose, front teeth ached, and fatigue: none of which occurred after any previous exams. I went to be that night wondering if I could have been over exposed to radiation. Did they calibrate the machine for light weights like me?

I woke up at 2:30 feeling like I couldn’t breathe that well. I called an upstairs neighbor telling him I may need a ride to E.R. but was going to call the P.A.’s office on call person and just ask some questions. A mid wife was the on call provider and reassured me it was highly unlikely and that I should be fine. I went through my next day again feeling overheated. I had bought tickets for my dad and I to go on a trolley tour and knew I couldn’t back out since they were non-refundable and it was his last week in Florida before going North for the summer.

Meanwhile I continued my internet research and found this on Harvard Medical School:”Radiation Risk from Medical Devices”:
The actual radiation exposure depends on many things, including the device itself, the duration of the scan, your size, and the sensitivity of the tissue being targeted.

I received a curt message back from the P.A. on the portal when I stated my concern that it could not possibly be related and that I should consult my General Practitioner for further help. She also quipped that she “couldn’t make me take any medication.” Suddenly the pretty articulate woman had lost her bed side manner having to answer pesky questions.

Being resilient, I dug in more, doing two days worth of research in search of possible supplements that could be tried before doing medication. One promising doctor had seen success with a daily does of the following: strontium, boron, vitamin K, melatonin, vitamin d, calcium and Omega 3’s. I have been religiously taking these ever since daily. (I already take lycopene -for skin, turmeric-anti-infammatory, Vitex-homeopathic hormone help).

I’ve decided I may never have another bone scan after gradually feeling better and reading horror stories about how bad radiation exposure is for you (and not to mention known for bone depletion!!!). Same with mammograms. Not. Doing. It. Again. If I feel a lump, I’ll go. Ditto for colonoscopy, if and when there’s a problem, I’ll go.

So follow me as I continue to run everyday, continue my supplement regimen and let’s see how long my bones hold up….naturally. If it works, we’ll know. And if it doesn’t we’ll know that, too. I plan on doing 6 month posts on this issue (or sooner if anything wild happens). I’ve been on the supplements almost two months and do feel stronger (yet realize it could be psychosomatic).

And now one p.s. I told a co-worker (15 years older) of my experience, and she indeed was given the ‘miracle’ annual infusion* once and suddenly had jaw problems taking a year of dentists appointments to overcome. Guess lightning strikes more often, eh?