Whenever I see a mother with her newborn baby, I’m reminded of the most devastating time of my life.
It’s hard to talk about, even now. But if telling my story will prevent even one person from experiencing the same kind of pain, it’s worth it.
I got married when I was 39. My husband Gerry and I immediately wanted to start a family. I wanted so badly to hold a child in my arms, to be the kind of loving mother my own mom had been. But three miscarriages later, I started to lose hope.
Then something wonderful happened—I gave birth to our daughter Chanel. It was a high-risk pregnancy because of my earlier miscarriages, but I followed my doctor’s instructions to the letter. I went on eight weeks of bed rest and blood thinners. I was determined to do whatever it would take to hold my baby.
When we brought Chanel home from the hospital, Gerry and I could hardly contain our happiness. We were so excited to start this new phase of life together as a family.
Two weeks later, I was standing beside Chanel’s crib, watching her sleep. She was so angelic, so peaceful. I bent down to pick her up ... and then pain ripped through my body, more excruciating than anything I had ever felt before.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was suffering from severe osteoporosis. And bending over to pick up my baby had literally broken my back.
After this traumatic event, I spent the next several weeks in excruciating pain, undergoing all kinds of tests and exams to try to figure out what was causing it. A month later, my doctor called me with the devastating news.
She said, “Christine, I don’t know how to tell you, but you have five spinal fractures and severe osteoporosis.”
With those words, my life was changed forever.
Even now, years later, my heart aches when I remember that time in my life. I’d wanted to be a mother so badly. But the pain of osteoporosis robbed me of that precious first year of motherhood.
I couldn’t even hold my baby. I couldn’t breastfeed her, or bathe her, or take her for walks around the neighbourhood.
I couldn’t even look after myself, let alone an infant. I was as helpless as she was. Gerry had to help me bathe and dress. I couldn’t do laundry, cook, or drive to my many, many medical appointments.
Eventually, we required a homecare assistant. I’m so grateful for her help—and goodness knows we needed it. But it was heart-breaking to watch my baby bond with her, and not me.
I tell you this story because osteoporosis is a misunderstood disease. I’ve heard people say, “It’s an old women’s disease” or “All it does is curve your spine” or “It’s a normal part of aging.” These myths are simply not true.
The truth is, osteoporosis can be what I call “3D”—devastating, debilitating and depressing. It’s more than just a curved spine or a broken bone. One false move, one fall on a slippery sidewalk, even one sneeze can change your life forever.
It’s not just the physical effects that are debilitating. The emotional impact can be overwhelming.
After my shocking diagnosis, I spiralled into a deep and dark depression. All I wanted to do was lie horizontal in bed, where it was the least painful. I was terrified of moving around in case I fell and broke more bones. I felt lost and incredibly alone.
That’s when I found Osteoporosis Canada—and I’m so glad I did. The support I received saved my life. And it’s all thanks to their wonderful donors. For me, they were a lifeline.
Through Osteoporosis Canada, I met people who had experienced similar pain and trauma, who really understood how I was feeling. I was inspired by others who had been able to move forward and manage the disease, and not let it dictate their life.
I’m so grateful I got the support and care I needed. It was a long road back, but eventually I was able to manage my pain and the disease. But every day I know something as simple as a sneeze could cause a devastating setback.
My daughter is now 17 years old and heading off to university! Even though she is young, vibrant and healthy I still remind her how important it is to take care of her bones. Osteoporosis can be genetic—my own mother and her sisters also had osteoporosis (although at the time everyone just thought their rounded backs were due to aging). So Chanel now makes sure she gets enough calcium, Vitamin D and exercise daily to fuel her bones.
Thank you for reading my story. Together, we will make Canadians unbreakable.