Anyone who has ever cracked a rib can attest to the pain it causes.
Alice Roberts cracks around 20 ribs a year, and that’s the least of her problems.
Her biggest problem? She’s a woman in her early 50s with the bones of a woman pushing 100.
Roberts suffers from severe osteoporosis, a condition that’s deteriorated her bone density to the point where even the simplest activity can cause a fracture.
A sneeze can fracture a rib; a fall could potentially break a hip.
It means Roberts has to be careful even when making the bed; pulling too hard on the sheets could leave her with a broken arm.
As it is, Roberts can’t lift anything heavier than five pounds without putting herself at risk for injury. In her condition, a small sack of groceries could be a danger. A gallon of milk is simply off limits.
A mother of two grown children, today Roberts can’t even hold a newborn baby.
Roberts’ bones started to weaken in the years following a hysterectomy in her early 20s. Typically, women build up calcium in their bones until menopause. When Roberts went through it early as a result of her surgery, she started to notice that she was more prone to bone fractures.
It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she learned the true nature of her condition.
“I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what,” Roberts said.
Back then, Roberts said, there just wasn’t enough knowledge about osteoporosis available from the medical community.
There were things her doctors recommended that no one would today, simply because there wasn’t enough of an understanding of the disease.
Having lived through the condition first hand, Roberts understands it intimately. The mother of two has done her best to live a life as normal as possible. Until a few years ago, Roberts was even able to hold down a job in the records department of the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office.
She had played off the occasional fall or broken rib because she didn’t want to lose her job, and she needed the insurance.
That all ended with a fall that left Roberts on the permanently disabled list.
It was difficult staying home alone; an earlier fall had left Roberts confined to a wheelchair for sometime and she couldn’t even go outside because there was a drop.
“I understand why older people sometimes die when they’re bed-ridden with a broken hip,” Roberts said. “The depression, the loneliness, it’s all there.”
It gave her perspective on the handicapped, Roberts said. After seeing how rude some people were to her, she’s vowed never to get impatient with the disabled ever again.
Roberts takes comfort by turning everyday tasks into personal victories. She still remembers the first time she was able to do laundry while in the wheelchair, she still members the first meal she was able to cook for herself when she was confined to the house.
“Mushroom smothered chicken with rice and a salad,” Roberts said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything normal ever again.”
Today, Roberts can still drive, and she still walks around with the help of a cane. She’s learned to deal with the pain, Roberts said, who was able to keep her job despite broken bones.
“It definitely hurts,” Roberts said. “But I’ve learned to choose what I moan about. You try and get around it. No is not in my vocabulary.”
She keeps falling down. It has become instinct, second nature, Roberts said, to twist her body in a fall in an attempt to protect vital areas.
“I’m on a first name basis with every EMT,” Roberts said. “It’s really quite embarrassing.”
But Roberts keeps getting up.
Knowing what she knows now that the doctors didn’t back then, Roberts took two years to write a book, “Living Day to Day with Severe Osteoporosis.”
She will be signing copies of her book at the Well Red Coyote in Sedona, 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 5.
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