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Marylin - Interview 12

Age at interview: 59
Age at diagnosis: 56
Brief Outline: Diagnosed in 2005 and currently on alendronic acid 70 mgs once weekly, Calcichew D3 Forte and for her back pain she takes Co-Dytramol one a day. Marilyn's mother has rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. After her diagnosis she took the decision to retire at sixty and 'enjoy life'.
Background: Divorced; works as a legal secretary. She has always been very sporty but now her exercise routine is aimed at enabling her to maintain mobility and flexibility in old age.

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Marilyn was under the care of a rheumatology consultant, due to knee problems, when she started having back pain. Early in 2005 she had an x-ray and later a DXA scan and was diagnosed with osteoporosis. Marilyn’s mother has had rheumatoid arthritis for many years and in her eighties was diagnosed with osteoporosis.
 
After her diagnosis she was put on Fosamax and later change to alendronic acid once weekly. She thinks her medication was changed because the later drug is generic and therefore cheaper. She began to experience hip pain which she put down to too much cycling until she was told by a friend that it could also be a side effect of the alendronic acid. She also takes Calcichew D3 Forte and Co-Dydramol one tablet daily to help her control her back pain.
 
Marilyn is unconvinced that the alendronic acid is an effective treatment for osteoporosis. Also she wonders how effective the treatment can be when it is just one tablet a week.
 
Marilyn is a keen sport person and ten years ago she used to run on a regular basis and after joining a running club, she went on to do five London marathons. After developing knee problems she stopped the marathon training but kept running short distances. Nowadays Marilyn does either yoga, Pilates or some weights everyday. She believes it helps her improve muscle strength, maintain flexibility and assist with pain management.
 
Marilyn thinks herself lucky to have been under the care of a consultant and diagnosed in her fifties because she feels there is much more she can do to help herself like having earlier treatment and an exercise routine. Her aim is to keep mobile and independent in older age. She admits, however, that her diet is poor.
 
Marilyn attributes her knee problems and osteoporosis to hereditary factors and “too much running”. She thinks that people with a family history of genetic illnesses ought to be given appropriate advice and information about the types of exercises they can do in safety.
 
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Marylin cycles everywhere and goes to an exercise class at the gym every evening.

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I was probably running almost every day. Not, when I first started running it was Sunday mornings. I joined a running club, and then, people I met there, that was, I must have started running in perhaps 80, 1982, 81. Around about 81. And then during 82 a group of us decided to do the 1983 London Marathon. So of course, then we were running long distances. And I kept that up. I did five marathons in all. But I did have problems with my knees and then after I'd stopped the marathon training, I just ran short distances. But I still used to do it quite often. But I don’t run any more. I can’t run now.
 
How many years did you keep it up for?
 
I started in about 81 and I must have stopped running … the marathons I finished doing marathons in about eighty, eight five. I did five marathons. And then I just kept doing sort of short jogs and I think I gave up running now about ten years ago.
 
But I still cycle everywhere, I have always cycled. I still go to the gym. But I do the classes at the gym. I used to actually do two or three classes a night. But now I do one most nights.
 
Okay. Are they sort of high impact type of exercises?
 
No, not any more. A lot of, a lot of the classes at gyms now are – the trend has changed. It used to be, you used to get lots of aerobic classes, you know, things like that, but now the girls, the young girls nowadays they don’t want that. They like the legs, bums and tums classes where you are lying on the floor all the time [laughs]. So I suppose it's good for me. It has made me tone my exercise classes down. So now I do legs, bums, and tums, and yoga and Pilates. And a lot of the gyms now have got these body training system classes. They're like a franchise. And those classes have taken over. There's body combats, which I don’t do. My joints wouldn’t like it. There is a lot of kicking and punching. There is body attack which is hard, very hard, but we don’t have it at my gym. And there is body pump, which I do. Because that is, that is weights. And I should do some weight, weight exercise to try and protect my joints. So I do body pump which is weights. I do Pilates. I do yoga. I still do circuit training. That's the only, that's the only high impact class that I do now.
 
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Marylin hopes that by taking medication sooner than her mother did, she will continue to be...

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With my mother having it and being diagnosed at 80 and me being diagnosed at fifty, fifty six, fifty seven, maybe I have got more chance of controlling it. But I don’t know. It just remains to be seen.
 
Was your mother diagnosed following a fracture?
 
No, because she's had so much wrong with her. She was in hospital such a long time with various operations and it was a test, it was an x-ray they did on her back because she was complaining of back ache. And it was an x-ray they did on her back whilst she was in hospital recovering from something else that they found it out. But I think it's quite normal to have it in your eighties, when I suppose you've had the majority of your life. Like if you have got it in your fifties, sixties you want to be mobile. You don’t want it to take over. So hopefully having it in your fifties, going on the treatment, it might make me a bit more mobile for my retirement.
 
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Marylin's diet has often been poor and she wonders if losing a great deal of weight in her teens...

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I suppose I don’t eat that well. I eat a lot of biscuits and cakes and chocolate [laugh]. But… I always have done.
 
So when you were doing all this running were you taking care of your diet?
 
No. Probably not. I suppose. Because I was out a lot and so when you come in you don’t want to cook. I cook at weekends. But I don’t cook much in the week.
 
 
You see I eat a lot of sweet things. I'm not very good at eating proper meals [laughs]. So….
 
And this is for a long time, that you are not…?
 
Yes, yeah. Just sort of – I suppose, yeah, I suppose so, it's very spasmodic really. I've sort of have, have a time when I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, but then I won’t. I'll just have sandwiches and cakes and biscuits for a long time. During the week. Weekends I normally, at weekends I go to my mother's, so, you know, I sort of cook, cook there. But I'm sort of out and about all the time, so I eat things that I can eat on the run [laughs].
 
But were you ever kind of worried about your weight or your body at all?
 
Well I've never actually tried to diet. Only when I was, when I was young. When I was about seventeen, eighteen, I lost a lot of weight then. But I put it back on, so whether this is the result of that, all that time ago, I don’t know, when I did lose a lot of weight.
 
You were dieting then?
 
Yes. I didn’t eat much at all. But now I just seem to maintain…. Although I have lost weight now, I think it's muscle, and I just maintain the same weight more or less now.
 
 
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After seeing a different GP in her practice, Marylin now takes stronger painkillers, which has...

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And how is your back ache now? Has it improved?
 
It's still there but yeah, it's still there, but I've been put on these painkillers now, and they are quite good. It's made me a bit more mobile. But the ache is still there, but it is not as bad.
 
I did have an, just a normal x-ray on my back again. And she put me on these painkillers and it said to take two four times a day which I did, and I was so ill. I was so ill. But I found taking one a day helps [laughs]. But not eight [laughs].
 
Can you remember their name? Of the painkillers?
 
Co-Dydramol or something [laughs]. So I take them now. They didn’t do my knee any good at the time, but they sort of have made my back a bit more nimble, although the pain is still there. So there again that wasn’t my own doctor that prescribed those pills, because my own doctor isn’t very good at prescribing pills. It was another doctor, but I did, I had, and this doctor that prescribed them, also sent me for knee x-rays again. And I had my back done again and she said the knees aren’t too bad. There's fluid in there of course. But she said the back is bad. So the back shows bad on the bone density scan and a normal x-ray. So I don’t know what's going on in my back.
 
Did she explain it to you more, in more detail?
 
No because it was a telephone interview. She just, you know, she just says the x-ray show your knees aren’t too bad, but your back is.
 
And what about …
 
And I said to her, “Oh well, you know, I have got these painkillers and they are quite good.” I said, “Can I have a repeat prescription when I've finished them?” So she did say, yes. Because as I said it wasn’t her that had prescribed them. She just told me when I went about my osteoporosis first of all to ask for the bone density scan. She had just told me to take paracetamol. So she's never prescribed strong painkillers. But now I've started taking them, and they are quite good.
 
How often do you take them?
 
One a day now. Yes. One a day and that is quite good. 
 
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Apart from a few friends at work, Marylin hasn't told her employers that she has osteoporosis.

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Yes. Yeah. I work full time. But because I retire next year I suppose I'm lucky, we get 90 days pre retirement leave. So from June I will go onto four day week and then I will go onto a three day week. So I can sort of wind down. Start winding down this year. Which is good. Because not a lot of firms have that. So I'll be going more or less sort of part time.

 

You don’t know what is going to happen. I mean hopefully I won’t deteriorate too quickly, but you just don’t know. So you do what you can, you know, and hopefully I'll have a bit of retirement before I'm in a wheelchair [laughs].
Well it won’t be early retirement because I will be 60 next year. So I was, I was lucky that when they changed the State Pension to 65. Women, 44 and over kept their state pension at 60 and at the time I was 44, so that was the advantage of age there. I was 44 so I kept it at 60. So I keep my State Pension at 60 and I get my company pension. Whereas friends younger than me they have to go 61, 62, 63 and then eventually it will be 65, which I think is, it's quite old really. You know, it's not old in old terms nowadays because we're living to 80, 90. But when you are 80. 90, a lot of women are not mobile, can’t do a lot for themselves. Like my mother's like a classic case. So over the last three years with my mother, it has really brought home to me, that if I'm going to end up like that… because that was one thing I did say to my own GP [laughs]. I went to my own GP for something and I'd sort of got on to about my mother. And I said to her, “If I end up like my mother I will be taking myself off to Switzerland to be put down.” [laughs].
 
 
I don’t think I actually, no I don’t actually think I told them that I had osteoporosis. No. I haven’t actually told them I've got osteoporosis. Because I didn’t need to. There's nothing I need them to provide for. So I mean some of the, some of the women at work know I've got it, because I have told them, but it is not generally known. I haven’t told everybody "I've got osteoporosis". It's just as it has come out in conversation.
 
Okay. So it's not something that you feel you need to …?
 
No it's not. It's not. I don’t need any special needs. You know, you use the mouse, and you, you can get things to help that. I don’t think you can get things to help osteoporosis, and unless you can get a special chair. But I think it's just making sure you don’t sit down for too long. Just keep getting up.
I get up. Because I'm on the top floor I get up and go up and down the stairs and I can do that. You know, I can sort of leave the computer and go up and down the stairs and keep mobile. But you are sitting for a long time and I don’t think it helps.
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