I scanned the letter from my doctor about my recent bone density test. I knew going in what the result would be. My mother fell several times as she got older and unsteady on her feet. Never broke a bone. In fact, with the exception of my brother who cracked his thumb skidding around a vacant parking lot on a go-cart back in the ’60s, and my daughter who snapped her arm at five years old in a fall off a porch ledge, our family was fracture free.
Towards the bottom of the letter were instructions to call to make a plan going forward. A plan? For what? I reread the first paragraph. There it was: “…you have osteoporosis.”
Damn. Why didn’t anyone warn me? All those years of pelvic exams, pap smears, and mammograms. Granted, my gynecologist encouraged me to take calcium supplements at every visit. She should have been more convincing. Something like, “Girl, your bones will be Swiss cheese by the time you retire if you don’t do something now!”
Don’t get me wrong. Back in the ’80s, I swallowed a calcium tablet the size of a ping-pong ball one morning with breakfast. By the time I got to work, I almost lost my eggs and toast in the office lobby.
Then a few years later, I bought a box of faux chocolate-flavored chewies. That lasted a few weeks. But blech! They so didn’t satisfy my chocolate craving.
I called the number on the letter and got a kindly, methodical nurse practitioner. After a brief explanation of the ravages of the condition on my skeletal structure, she said, “You need 1200-1500 mg. of calcium per day. First, let’s see how much you get from food. Do you drink orange juice?” she asked.
“Too bad,” she said. ”A 6 oz. glass contains 200 mg. Milk has about 300 mg. in 8 oz. How much milk do you drink?”
“Not a fan.” I pictured the week old half-empty carton of souring dairy in the fridge. “A bowl of Fruity Pebbles now and then.”
“How about cheese?”
“Oh yes,” I said, elated to get one right. “I eat ½ slice of Swiss (oh, the irony) on my daily roast beef sandwich.”
“Good,” she said. “One slice is about 220 mg., so that’s 110.”
110? That’s it?
Next she moved to veggies. “What about broccoli?”
“I love broccoli,” I said. Score another one for the picky eater.
“Good. That’s 70 mg.”
Seriously? What’s a girl gotta do to up her milligrams?
I wracked my brain to come up with other qualifying foods. Milk duds? Milky Way Bars? Orange Julius?
Nurse Milligram continued the interrogation until she reached the end of her list.
Then came the plan as referenced in the letter. “You’ll need daily supplements to make up the deficit. How do you take your supplements?”
I hesitated. No more horse pills. “Uh…gummies?” So pathetic.
“OK, no problem. Take four 250 mg. calcium gummies per day, and one daily Vitamin D3 gummy to help your body absorb the calcium.”
Uh, no. No way was I going to choke down five gummies a day.
“Wait,” I said. “What if I increase my cheese to a full slice? And you didn’t ask about Häagen Dazs. That’s dairy. I polish off a tub of Java Chip every week. And if I crumble a couple broccoli florets in it, I can…”
“Whoa. Slow down, Honey,” she said, no doubt sensing my frustration. “Don’t get neurotic about it. Just do the best you can.”
Oh, I was gonna get neurotic about it. She clearly doesn’t know me.
After sharing my sad tale with a friend later via email, I signed off, “Have a nice day. I’ll just be here, tabulating my calcium.”
She wrote back, “Tabulating? I never do that. I just pop a pill twice a day, when I remember.”
That’s when I realized maybe I could dial it back a bit. As long as I’m aware of the importance of daily calcium intake, and keep the freezer stocked with Chunky Monkey, I’ll be OK.