Age 61 • Canada
My Name is Nancy Macklin. I was born in the village of Hampton, just east of Toronto, Ontario.
I grew up in a dairy farm and I always had a lot of calcium in my diet – so when I was diagnosed with osteoporosis in 2011, I guess I felt surprised with the diagnosis.
My mother did not have osteoporosis, so I was one of the fortunate ones to be diagnosed strictly from a routine bone density scan, which my family physician had ordered.. When I was first diagnosed, I wasn’t too concerned, but I really knew little about how it was treated and very little about the success of treatments.
I was first treated with Aclasta which is an intravenous drug. My background was in the medical field so having an intravenous drug infusion was not a big concern for me. Slowly, since 2011, my bone density has been improving; it is not back to a satisfactory level so I’m still being treated with medication although it was changed to Prolia.
I have changed my diet a little too. I’m very conscious about trying to absorb my calcium from food sources as opposed to tablets. My doctor has advised me to consume 1200 milligrams of calcium a day. I’m aiming to get that calcium from food sources in conjunction with 2000 units of vitamin D.
Winter in Canada can be of concern if you have fragile bones. Icy sidewalks are a problem - particularly last winter when we had a tremendous ice storm just before Christmas and everything was covered with ice. It’s interesting that now there are devices available to help people get around in icy conditions. I recently bought a new pair of winter boots that actually have flip-over spikes on the sole which I can use when the surfaces are slippery. I think I’m probably more cautious of slippery conditions now since my diagnosis.
I’m also more cautious when going down stairways and lifting, because in my case, my spine was more affected by osteoporosis than my hips. As a result, protecting my back is something I’m much more aware of now than I was before.
As I was growing up, one of our neighbours had very bad osteoporosis and had had multiple fractures over her lifetime; and then my aunt also had osteoporosis. So, although the disease itself was not foreign to me, I went online to learn more about osteoporosis. That’s when I discovered Osteoporosis Canada. During my reading of Osteoporosis Canada’s website I noticed that they were looking for volunteers so I investigated that. In 2012 I became a volunteer at the national office in Toronto, where I work one day a week, helping in the finance office and working on the database of donors.
My main focus though, is trying to get more people interested in volunteering and also in getting the word out that both women and men should request a BMD from their family doctors. It is unfortunate that so many people are first diagnosed when they have actually sustained a fracture. I feel very fortunate that I was diagnosed before that happened.
There are many parts of Canada in which the availability of BMD services is quite limited - primarily in the north and even in rural parts of Ontario. We need to ensure that medical and diagnostic services are available so that patients benefit from early diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis before a fracture happens.
I also think that we really need to promote awareness of good nutrition in young people (even in the elementary school system) at the ages when they are building up their bone strength.
You need to have your calcium intake primarily from food, you need to get plenty of exercise and you need to be aware of keeping your muscles strong, because strong muscles will also help protect your bones should you fall.
This is equally important at an older age. We need to ensure that we do absorb the right level of calcium in our diet. We also have to be a little bit more aware of protecting our bones and the important thing we need to do, is get a baseline bone densitometry test done early. It should be done around 50 to 55 years of age, and then get re-tested every few years to ensure that our bone strength is being maintained. If it’s not, then we can deal with that by diet, exercise and by medication, if prescribed.