Because I recently had a hysterectomy and had my ovaries removed, I am susceptible to bone loss at the same rate as a 50 year old woman going through natural menopause. The estrogen patch I’m wearing should help counteract that, but nonetheless, it’s a concern. And, because I have rheumatoid arthritis, it’s even more of a concern. My joints are already at risk for damage – add brittle bones to the mix, and I’ll be surprised if I’m not walking with a cane by my 40th birthday. So, my rheumatologist thought it would be a good idea to get a baseline bone density scan, just to keep track of any damage that might be occurring. And where does one get a bone density scan, you might be asking? Why, at the hospital’s geriatric center, of course. That’s right – I’m 36 and now a geriatric patient.
I did have to roll my eyes when he told me that’s where I’d have the test. I tried to laugh it off, but the idea that my body is getting exponentially older by the day really isn’t as funny as one might think.
So yesterday I went to the Benedum Geriatric Center at UPMC (if you clicked on the link, please note that even my grandparents never looked as old as those people in the header picture). And I was really unprepared for what I found there.
Every sign in the place was a message about aging – posters advertised services and research studies for issues like memory problems, podiatry, Alzheimer’s, back pain, urinary incontinence, osteoporosis, walking and balance. I was the only one there playing on my iPhone. One woman was reading a plastic-covered library book (I note that detail because I associate those with both of my grandmothers who read constantly but only books from the library and they’re always hard-covers with the plastic on them). The other people were glued to the television watching Kathie Lee and Hoda. And, I was definitely the only person there under the age of 70.
Wake up call.
When I first discovered my BRCA status, I wrote about what it was like to be 28 years old and walking into the breast imaging center at Rhode Island Hospital. Everyone else there was middle-aged, and everyone looked at me with pity. Why? Because you’re not supposed to be having a mammogram when you’re 28, so everyone in that waiting room was probably assuming that a doctor thought I might have breast cancer.
This was sort of similar. While no one was really paying attention to me in this waiting room, I had a sort of de ja vu. I shouldn’t be in this office. And if I am, it’s because someone thinks I have something wrong with me – something that only old people have wrong with them. Urinary incontinence? Balance problems? Bone loss.
I know I act like I’m older than I am – I go to bed at 8:30pm, I don’t like loud music or crowds anymore, and I teach college students (which is somewhat hilarious because I was a terrible student in college!). But I do those things by choice. I love being silly, watching dumb movies, sleeping late when I can. In my head I do feel young. Unfortunately though, my body is moving on, and there’s nothing my head can do about it.