Friday, December 24, 2010

Finally, a Normal Christmas

In 2008, Mom died on December 20th. Last year, I was hobbling around with a walker at Christmas, recovering from a fractured femur. 

Things didn't look too promising for this year's Christmas. After two months of worrisome abdominal pain, our daughter had surgery yesterday at 4:30 PM. It was no emergency, but the doctor wanted to get it over with before Christmas.  She was able to come home last night and says she is "happy as a clam" today. 

Our grandson's two-month-old health problem has also resolved itself. After an ultrasound and a visit to a pediatric urologist, he's been told to drink more water and pee more than twice a day. 

I missed choir practice last night, because we didn't leave the hospital until 7 PM. I'm going to sing at both the early and midnight services anyway. I think I know the music well enough.

Tomorrow everyone's coming to our house for dinner.

"Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You Better Not Laugh

. . . because Santa Claus has already come to town and left Ramsey this beautiful winter coat. Who says a pit bull can't be a fashionista? 

(I'm sure he'll grow to love it.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

End of the Larry King Era

Mom loved Larry King. Until macular degeneration left her nearly blind at age 97, she watched him faithfully. She loved the way he dressed. One Christmas she asked me to buy a shirt and a tie for her to give to Phil. I didn't buy the tie, because Phil rarely wears them.  I bought him a nice flannel shirt, his winter work uniform.

Mom took one look at the shirt and sighed with disappointment. "I wanted him to start dressing up more for work. He should wear shirts and ties like Larry King." Well, even if I'd understood what she wanted in the first place, it was never gonna happen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas in Prince George's County

It's not that I have nothing to write about. I have a long list of topics for another day. Another day when I don't feel plowed under by family health problems involving our daughter and grandson. Problems both physical and mental. Our daughter doesn't handle stress well. Neither do I.  I'm frayed at the edges. 

Even so, life has its moments. Mom died two years ago this month, right before Christmas. She was a forlorn and cantankerous old lady, living (she thought) with strangers. At least she had Georgie.  Here she is, napping with the Cat of Cats. We adopted Georgie from a shelter a few months after Sadie died, even though Mom had said, "I don't want another cat." Georgie became her  live-in Teddy bear. 

Georgie was 3 or 4 years old when we got her in early 2007.  No longer a kitten. Sometimes she'd chase a laser light, but mostly it was, "Ho-hum. Why don't you chase it?" Yesterday, out on the screened porch, she suddenly noticed a tiny stuffed mouse she'd ignored for months. She stalked it, pounced on it, tossed it in the air, dashed madly about.  She put on a great show for two minutes. Perhaps it was her way of saying, "'Tis the season to be jolly."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving in Knox County

I haven't blogged recently because of our daughter's and older grandson's health problems that began in mid-October. Nothing life-threatening, but  they require a lot of care and concern all the same.  

On Thanksgiving Day, Phil and I drove (9 hours) to our cabin in Ohio. We celebrated on Friday. When the rain stopped, we raked a ton of oak leaves over the space of a few days.  We visited with neighbors.  Phil's sister and husband came up from Marietta and stayed Saturday night. 

Life is different in Knox County. We encountered an Amish buggy on Route  514. We've  never seen one on that road before. Most of the Amish live in neighboring Holmes County, but  many more Amish are buying farms in Knox Country than they did a decade ago. At Miller's Hardware, I picked up a copy of The Vendor, a biweekly paper serving "plain folk everywhere" and turned immediately to the ads for buggy horses. All the horses were "traffic safe and sound" except for one that was "sound, but not quite traffic safe." An ad for an 8-year-old black Morgan standardbred mare stated that she was an "excellent traveler" that "some women can drive." Asking price, $1200.00. I fondly remember the recent ad that warned, "Not a horse for seniors." 

The sign on the door of  Dale's Cardinal grocery store in Danville said,  "No tobacco or snuff chewing in the store." Who knew that you could chew snuff? A notice on the bulletin board offered "cur" pups for sale. What kind of dog is that?

The week-long gun season for white-tail deer began on Monday, the 29th. While raking leaves, we heard shooting in the distance. Phil allows deer hunting on our property. (His sister doesn't allow it on hers.) Phil likes to plant trees; the deer like to eat them. They also damage mature trees and shrubs with their relentless browsing. Although Phil feels ambivalent about deer hunting, he realizes that, with no natural predators, too many deer are competing with each other for food.  

This year many newcomers asked for hunting permits. One man even researched land records at the court house in Mount Vernon and called us.  He is interested in securing "good hunting land" in the future for himself and his son, who is now just two years old. Phil keeps a calendar showing who is hunting on which parcel on a given day. He certainly doesn't want the hunters shooting one another.

The local fire chief apologized for requesting permission at the last minute. He said he'd been involved in the investigation of the recent murder of two adults and a child near Mount Vernon. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wee Halloweener

Our 2-and-1/2-year-old grandson, Nathaniel, went around the new neighborhood with his daddy. Many of the houses looked just like their own house, which they'd moved into last June. It was dark by the time they got back. Nathaniel apparently didn't realize he was home, because he seemed surprised when his mother came to the door. After he said "Trick or Treat" and was given his candy, he asked plaintively, "Can I come in?" 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

FDA Press Release on Risk of Femur Fractures

At last, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is saying what its European counterparts have been saying for the past two years. On October 13, the FDA issued the following press release:

FDA: Possible increased risk of thigh bone fracture with bisphosphonates
Labeling change adds warning about possible risks of long-term use of osteoporosis drugs

All we can say in the Femur Friends support group  (over 50 members, including one man) is, "About time!"

Last May, some of our members met with FDA officials to voice our concerns. Looks like we made our point. Just for the record, we do not think that femur fractures are all that rare. Some thigh-bone (femur) fractures are erroneously classified as hip fractures, which they are not.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Jelly left on plate.
Pit bull in the china shop.
CRASH! Good-bye, dear lamp. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Grand Mart

A "blue runner" purchased at Grand Mart
We used to have a Giant supermarket in our neighborhood. No more. The corporate fathers decided that our Giant was not profitable, so they closed it. We now have to drive three miles to downtown Laurel to the other Giant, which has a dangerous, hanky-sized parking lot.

Soon huge floral arrangements appeared on the sidewalk outside the abandoned store. Grand Mart was open for business. And a fine, albeit strange, store it is. Although Grand Mart appears to be owned by Koreans, over half the aisles are devoted to Latino foods and many of the cashiers are Hispanic.

The vegetables are, well, different. My husband, an adventurous eater, will try anything once. He buys something, often asking another customer, if he can find one who speaks English, to tell him what to do with the thing. If he can't find anyone, he'll bring it home and look it up in his book, Exotic Fruits and Vegetables. We've decided we don't care for jack fruit and that coconuts are too difficult to mess with.

Little stalls line the perimeter of the store. You can buy almost anything: kitchenware, underwear, bathing suits, shoes, watches, rice cookers, teapots. There's a bakery and a Korean/Chinese carry-out, owned by Mr. Sweet, who usually looks sour and grumpy. Mr. Sweet sells  noodles, vegetarian sushi, "shredded squids" and several varieties of kimchee every day of the week.  A sign advises: "No Chines Food on Wednesday!"

Other signs also mystify and delight. A month or two after Grand Mart opened, a sign appeared on the front door: "Special-move the tofu to the dairy section." Another sign still warns, "No flip-flop. No pet." My 7-year-old grandson spotted a customer leaving the store in the forbidden footwear. "Hey!" he yelled, helpfully, "She's wearing flip-flops!" Yesterday, a new sign has appeared---in fact, about 2 dozen identical signs were posted on the plate-glass window and in the entryway--offering a "$100 reward". It pictures the alleged shoplifter wheeling his cart brazenly out of the store. Some innocent shoppers are also caught in the camera's eye. The "perp's" head is haloed so that everyone knows who the bad guy is.  No other information is given, such as what you have to do to collect the reward.

My grandson loves Grand Mart's huge seafood section, with its tray upon tray of whole fish.   One day, he begged me to buy him a "blue runner" to take home. He wanted to cut it up himself, with Grandpa's help. The non-English-speaking man behind the counter offered to clean it, of course, but I said, "No, thanks. We'll take it home as is." Too many words. He looked puzzled. I said, "No clean." Still looking somewhat mystified, he nodded and wrapped it up. Once we got it home, Andrew and Grandpa slowly dissected it, both marveling at the  intricacies of fins, guts and gills. Then we baked it and minced it to order for Her Majesty, Georgina, the Cat of Cats.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not This Again!

My sister--

the one who broke her left femur last November, two weeks before I broke my right femur
the one who never had osteoporosis, but just osteopenia
the one who was treated for her osteopenia with Fosamax
the one who was subsequently found to have a hairline fracture in her right femur
the one who had her right femur "rodded prophylactically" in December

yes, that sister

well, yesterday she fell while walking in Newport Park in Door County, WI,
and turned her hairline fracture into a "completed" fracture. The pain was
excruciating. It looks like the hairline fracture never began to heal after the rod was implanted.


What she and I and all of us in the Femur Fracture Friendship Group have to remember is that after a rod is implanted, healing takes a long time. It may even be delayed for months.  If and when new bone forms, the new bone bonds with old, brittle Fosamax-built bone. Furthermore, Fosamax stays in your system for 10 years.  Some of us will not live long enough to be rid of bones-by-Fosamax. 


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Bulldog Named Margaret

Back in the day, dogs ran all over the neighborhood. A cute French bulldog often came visiting because Mom gave treats to all comers. I called her "Margaret."

My dad asked, "Is that dog's name really 'Margaret'?"

"No, " I said, "we just call her that."

"But why 'Margaret?'"

"Because she looks like Margaret E.," I said, naming a well-known dowager-about-town.

"Oh, she does not!" exclaimed Dad, rather indignantly.

I saw him look at the dog again and suppress a smile.

Ai yi! Fate pays us back. Now I am a "dowager-about-town" and worried about starting to look like a French bulldog.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Around 5 AM on Friday, a minor earthquake (magnitude: 3.6) woke some people in the Washington, DC area. I slept through this one. 

I was awake (well, propped up at my desk, anyway) when another small quake shook nearby Columbia, MD in 1993. My chair rolled slightly. Later, the office comedian yelled over to our Branch Chief, "Hey, Keith!  Your wife called. She said the earth moved and you weren't there."

Friday, July 2, 2010

"Departures" (Japanese movie)

Last night we watched a movie recommended by my sister, Margaret, about a young cello player who loses his job when the orchestra is disbanded. Desperate, he returns to his rural hometown far from Tokyo and reluctantly takes a job as an "encasketer". What is an "encasketer," you may ask. For all my knowledge--albeit superficial--of  Japanese culture, I have to admit that I've never heard of this practice. It entails the reverent preparation of the body for burial in full view of the mourners and placing it in the casket, at which point the funeral directors take over. 

Watching the elaborate ceremony, I said to myself, "But I thought everyone in Japan was cremated." Surely they wouldn't go through all this and then cremate the body, but that's just what they did. 

Although I'd never known about this old custom, I was proud to have guessed that the "boss," the apprentice encasketer, and the secretary were observing a new one. One scene shows them digging into a bucket of fried chicken with gusto. I said to Phil, "I'll bet it's Christmas." Sure enough, the camera pulled back, revealing a small Christmas tree with twinkling lights. It's the custom in Japan to order Kentucky fried chicken at Christmas because Colonel Sanders looks like Santa Claus.

Here's my guess about why the husband keeps his job a secret from his wife and why she  freaks out when she learns the truth. The Japanese don't like to talk about it, but Japan retains the vestiges of a caste system. Members of this caste are called the "eta," or untouchables. No one knows how they came to be set apart, but some think they long ago took on the task of disposing of dead animals. The native religion, Shinto, makes a big deal out of ritual purity. Shoes are not allowed in the house, and a separate pair of slippers must be worn for trips to the bathroom. My guess is that anyone who handles a dead body is considered "unclean." When the wife finds out about her husband's work, she screams, "You're filthy!" and runs off to Tokyo. But that's not the end of this story, which is told with love and tenderness. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Femur Fracture Friends Meet with FDA

On May 24, seventeen members of our on-line Femur Fracture support group* met with eleven key officials of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Silver Spring, MD. We came from as far away as Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia to tell our stories and ask the FDA to put a black-box warning on the packaging of Fosamax and other  bisphosphonates about the side effects and risks of these drugs. 

All of us suffered low-energy fractures or stress fractures of the femur (thigh bone), which is one of the strongest and least fracture-prone bones in our bodies. All of us had taken Fosamax or similar drugs for at least four years. Most of us had been put on Fosamax by our doctors for osteoporosis, but some had been put on it merely for osteopenia ( thinning bones, not actual osteoporosis). Most of us had to have surgery after "completed" fractures, with placement of a titanium rod. Most of us are still in pain several months or years post-surgery. A few have fractures that refuse to heal after a year or more. 

Each of us made brief statements about our situations. The organizer of our group, Dr. Jennifer Schneider, reviewed the research that establishes an association between bisphosphonates and femur fractures. She also pointed out flaws in the research that finds no such association. Dr. Toby Morgan, the husband of one of the victims, noted that the FDA, unlike its counterparts in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, was still maintaining, as late as March of this year, that no association has been proven to exist between bisphosphonates and femur fractures. He also observed that the drug manufacturers have buried the information about the risks and side effects of these drugs in the finest of fine print on roadmap-sized enclosures.  

The FDA officials listened for over an hour. They seemed receptive. We hope that they will act.

PS. I am second to the left in the back row, the one with the gleaming white hair. 
*Our group has doubled in size since the beginning of 2010. We now have about 55 members, including one man.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Life in an Extended Family Commune

Welcome to the Commune. There is no guru here, just four quasi-adults, one two-year-old, three dogs  and two cats.

Tom, Becky, our daughter, and Nathaniel, our grandson,  moved in over the weekend. That is to say, they brought their three dressers, clothes on hangers, and a half ton of food. Our freezer is crammed full. Ditto the refrigerator, and there is still food in their College Park refrigerator. We are going to consume all this in the next three weeks. I am having frozen organic samosas for lunch.

Two loads of laundry will be done today. We will dine on a $14 organic chicken tonight  (Becky was afraid it would be "spoiled" because she started thawing it on Friday.)

Tom leaves on Wednesday for a 4-day concert tour. In early June, the army band will go to Hawaii for 10 days. Tom will be gone on June 7th, the day they are moving into their new house.  Becky is a bit frazzled. She just called to ask me if the blue plastic container containing Nathaniel's breakfast was in the driveway or the street. She had put it on top of the car and driven off.

It wasn't.

Yesterday the two cats had a chance encounter before being properly introduced. It wasn't pretty. Somehow Clarence (their cat)  got out on the screened porch where Georgie was holding court from the penthouse of  her cat condo. The next thing you know, she stretched her neck over the side of her perch to get a better view of the stranger. Then she flew at him and grabbed him viciously around his middle. Clarence fled into the "apartment" in terror and later threw up on the bed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jake to the Rescue

Last week the house up the street was destroyed by fire. A gas-line leak is suspected because two  explosions rattled the neighbors' windows before the fire broke out. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but what a heartbreak to lose irreplaceable items such as family photos and heirlooms.

Nearly three years ago, my husband's sister also lost her house to fire. She and her husband escaped unhurt, along with their three dogs and about half of their fifteen cats. (A faulty extension cord in the four-season room caused the fire.) Their dog, Jake,  nudged them awake around 5 AM, moments before the smoke alarm went off. 

Jake is the big dog in the picture which we took during our first visit to my in-law's new house. Ramsey, our pitbull, seems to be anxiously wondering how Phil and this other dog came to be such pals.

Phil and Jake met several years earlier, when Jake was a mere pup. At that time, Phil was busy with  our cabin-building project in Ohio. He accepted an offer to stay in a neighbor's cabin for the weekend. Arriving after dark, when everything was pitch black, he was startled to hear ferocious barking from the direction of the darkened cabin. It sounded like a dog to be reckoned with, but when Phil beamed his flashlight on the porch, all he saw was a scrawny little mutt, no bigger than a fox.

That's what he called him: "Fox." Fox was guarding the cabin with fierce loyalty. He might have been abandoned, dumped out of a car on Route 514. Somehow Phil managed to slip through the door without being attacked. He spread some stale bread with mayonnaise and tossed it out on the porch. Fox inhaled it. He then wedged himself into the tiny space between the window grille and the glass to be as close as possible to the his new friend inside the cabin.

The next morning Phil drove six miles to Danville for dog food. Fox gobbled it up and stayed close to Phil all day. On Monday, Phil had to return to Maryland. What to do with Fox? He could hardly come home with Phil. At least not that day. We already had a crotchety, old beagle, Arlo.  Plus my Mom. Mom was very protective of Arlo's rights as a senior citizen. She would certainly have objected to "upsetting" him by introducing an energetic, new puppy.  Mom also had an ancient cat that couldn't stand "too much noise and confusion."

Phil discussed the situation with his sister, who lived in Marietta, OH. She and her husband already had two dogs and about a dozen cats. Nevertheless, they agreed to keep Fox temporarily. Fox rode all the way to Marietta with his chin resting on Phil's knee.

A few days after Phil got home, he called his sister for a report on Fox. His sister said that they had changed Fox's name to Jake and that he was doing just fine.  He was getting along well with his four-footed siblings.  So Fox had found his new family. But he never forgot Phil.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Uncle Earl

This morning we went to The Diner for breakfast. Through the window, we saw the cook step outside to smoke. To our surprise, he proceeded to roll his own cigarette. I didn't know people still did that. He poured just the right amount of loose tobacco into a thin, white paper.  Jiggled it around  to even things out, rolled it, licked the edge of the paper, sealed it deftly and settled down for a few moments of bliss. Many a time I watched Uncle Earl do this very thing when I was a kid. 

Uncle Earl. 

What a character. 

He and "Cousin Carl" lived at "Whitehaven," the farm my natural mother's parents bought during the Depression. Aunt Nancy said, "I never thought anything about it. I thought everyone kept a couple of freaks around the house."

Freaks? That seems a bit harsh. Earl and Carl both drank. My grandfather took them in, hoping to keep them out of trouble. It didn't work for Carl, but Uncle Earl did fine, as long as he didn't go to town.  

Uncle Earl was a frail, little old man with a fringe of white hair. He slept in a monks' cell of a  bedroom on the first floor near the kitchen.  He'd spend hours in his room, playing solitaire on a rickety, blue table with scorch marks along the edge, where he'd set countless hand-rolled cigarettes.  He never had much to say, other than to good-naturedly call my sister and me "a couple of bad eggs." Sitting on the covered radiator in the "breakfast room," smoking one of his cigarettes, he'd churn butter in a gallon-sized glass jug fitted out with a crank. He'd crank and crank until butter began to appear on the paddles. One thing that Uncle Earl took great pride in was his beautiful vegetable garden. He wouldn't pick the corn until Grandmother had the water  boiling.  

Grandmother said that Uncle Earl was awfully smart. She told me that, at Allegheny College,  Uncle Earl often took exams for a lazy classmate who later became a judge in Crawford County. Unfortunately, Uncle Earl didn't graduate. Something about getting drunk and putting a cow in the bell tower of Alden Hall. I wish now that I'd listened more carefully to Grandmother's stories.  

Who knows how close he came to ruin before he tried a "geographical cure?' What happened to Uncle Earl when he went to town? One time he accompanied Grandmother to Cambridge Springs on a grocery-shopping trip. He was supposed to drop off the vacuum cleaner at the repair shop. Not only did he drop it off, but he also dropped out of sight for two or three weeks. That's what could happen when Uncle Earl went to to town.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Angel Wore Flip-Flops

Click on photo to see angelic flip-flops.

We're back from a week in San Miguel de Allende. We happened to be there during Holy Week. We saw three magnificent religious processions. Here is the beginning of the second procession that took place on Good Friday, an hour-long re-enactment of the crucifixion. 

The procession began at La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel (The Parish of Saint Michael the Archangel), a most unusual church that dominates the Jardin Principal (town square), if not the whole state of Guanajuato.

I don't have much more to say right now. I fell in love, that's all. 

It's been chaotic, in a good way, since we've come home. Our younger daughter, husband, and two-year-old "house-sat" while we were away. While we were gone, a major leak developed in the bathroom at their house. They've had to extend their stay. The repairman expects to be finished in time for them to return home tomorrow night. Meanwhile, the refrigerator is so full of stuff I can't find a thing. Laundry baskets and suitcases are stacked up everywhere. I've been to the supermarket a few times and done some laundry, theirs and ours. Sophie, their dog--the one I fell over when I broke my leg--barreled through  the porch screen, creating a portal to the Great Outdoors for Georgie, our indoor cat. Georgie didn't go very far, but she looked all too pleased to have "escaped" for a few moments. 

I still have one foot in Mexico and vague plans to take Beginning Spanish. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Off to Mexico

We're going to Mexico for a week (not Jaurez). We're meeting three of my sisters and their husbands. We're all sharing a villa--the former vacation home of President Santa Ana, who led the Mexican troops at the Battle of the Alamo.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Childlike Defiance

Now that I'm recovering from a broken leg, I get scolded every time I stand on the step-stool to reach something on the high shelf.  "Mom! Get down! Ask Dad to get that for you!"

This brings back a memory of Mom and me. Two or three years ago, Mom came out in the kitchen while I was on the step-stool.

"Oh," she said, "I need to borrow that." A frail 97-year-old lady needs to borrow a step-stool?

"What for?" I asked.

"If I tell  you, you won't let me borrow it."

True enough. She eventually confessed that she wanted to clean the tops of her kitchenette cabinets. 

"Mom, I can do that for you. I don't want you getting up on this thing."

"Why not?"

"Because you could fall and break something."

"Anybody could fall and break a bone," she countered.

True enough.

"Besides," she went on, "I have never fallen." She forgot she'd already told me about the time she landed in the rose bush while cleaning the garage window, back in Meadville.

To demonstrate her agility and superior sense of balance, she stood on the lower step and flapped her arms defiantly. She looked like a bird about to take flight. 

"Mom, get down!"

She got down, pleased to see that she had riled me up.

She did not get to borrow the step-stool

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Games Our Minds Play

This is just crazy!

Yesterday morning I was reading about Mrs. Clarence Thomas and Liberty Central, her new political-action group. As a former employee of the federal government, I remembered that we employees had certain restrictions on our political activity. (Not that this has anything to do with Mrs. Thomas, mind you. I'm just saying.) I asked my soon-to-retire husband the name of the act that limited our politicking. 

He couldn't remember. 

Then the strangest thing happened. 

The mental image of a guy I knew at work floated into my mind, but I couldn't remember his name either! 

Just then, my husband hit on the answer. "The Hatch Act!"

Yep. My mental image was that of a guy named David Hatch. I ask you: why must our brains play hide-n-seek like this?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Toddler Endears Himself to His Cousin

(Nearly Two Years Ago)
 Margaret with 2-month-old nephew, Nathaniel, and son, Andrew, 5

This weekend we celebrated our son-in-law's birthday with a family dinner at our house. Our two little grandsons were there, of course. For the first time, they appeared to play together, despite the age gap. Andrew is 7 and Nathaniel will turn 2 on March 10th.

Christmas was the last time the cousins saw each other because of colds and major snowstorms. Andrew looked very happy when his little cousin called him by name for the first time on Sunday. Nathaniel is building his vocabulary day by day. How sweet that one of his first hundred words is "Andrew." 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Did Vivaldi Have Red Hair?

Yesterday I could have sworn they (WETA-FM) said, "And now a concerto from our favorite redneck, Antonio Vivaldi."

They must have said "redhead."

Or did they?

If not "redhead," what DID they say?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Last Word on Femurs and Fosamax

I don't want to give people the wrong impression. I  just don't know that Fosamax is wrong for everyone. It might even have been good for me, at least for a short period.  To sum up:

*Some doctors now advise patients on Fosamax to take a "vacation" after they've been on the drug for 5 years. Reason: Fosamax has a half-life of 10 years. This means it stays in your body after you stop taking it. It looks like you derive no additional benefit from taking it longer than 5 years. 

*However, 5 years is not a magic number. Some femur fractures occur earlier than 5 years, but most femur fractures occur in women taking bisphosphonates (Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, etc.) for 8 years or longer. (I took Fosamax and alendronate sodium, its generic, for nearly 10 years.)

*A blood test after 4 or 5 years can determine whether your bone-turnover markers are normal or whether the bisphosphanate you've been taking has shut the process down.

*Complain loudly to your doctor if you have persistent thigh pain.  

*Be very wary of taking Fosamax for osteopenia. For an alarming report on the agressive marketing of Fosamax, see How A Bone Disease Grew To Fit the Prescription on NPR. My sister took Fosamax for over four years for osteopenia and ended up with a fractured left femur and a hairline crack in her right femur, which was "rodded" before it could break completely. 

*Don't take my word for it. Search the Internet  using the terms "Fosamax" and "femur," and you'll pull up oodles of press articles and notices of lawsuits galore. Also, check out a report called Drugs Causing Bone Breaks? on

'Nuff said. It's been nearly three months since my fracture. I'm doing well, with minimal pain and stiffness. I waddle all over the place and climb stairs, albeit slowly.  I plan to continue physical therapy for another month. I now have an exercise bike. The surgeon tells me it takes a year for my type of fracture to heal completely, but I think I'm on track.

Now on with the rest of my life. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Enough, Already

On Saturday, January 30th, we set out for "the far-off province of Ohio," as they call it in The King and I. We knew there'd be some snow, but we didn't think it would amount to much. Silly us. It fell mainly in Maryland, getting heavier as we headed west. More than once my husband asked, "Do you think we should turn back?" We both wanted to keep going, so we did.  On the other side of Uniontown, PA, the snow stopped. Once we were at the cabin, we could see that it had snowed there sometime during the past week, but it wasn't as deep as it is in the photo. The photo was taken on February 7th by a Knox County neighbor, after we were back in Maryland. 

We went to our cabin in mid-winter so that we could attend the 66th annual Raccoon Dinner sponsored by the Danville Lion's Club. It's a major community fundraiser that's always held on the first Monday in February. As I said to Phil, "I come for the cake." For dessert, you can pick out your own piece of homemade cake. Every year they give a prize to the person who has traveled the farthest to feast on raccoon. We've never won. Last year, the winner came from Russia. This year, from Egypt. How can anyone who drives a mere 385 miles from Maryland compete with that?

On Tuesday, we started home. Just over the Maryland line,  we ran into another snowstorm. The road (I-68)  all but disappeared at times. The trip took 12 hours!

On Friday night, the Big Snow began. It snowed all night and all day Saturday. We ended up with 21 inches from that storm. Church was canceled on Sunday. Sunday morning, Phil began shoveling. Our daughter, Becky, called, complaining of a cough, pain in her chest, and a high fever. She'd been sick for several days, as had their nearly-two-year-old son, Nathaniel, He was getting better; she was getting worse. She needed to go to the emergency room. The ambulance could not go up their street, so a fire truck came instead, to take her to the hospital.  Nathaniel put on his "I-don't-know-you, but-even-if-I-did, I-don't-think-I'd-like-you" face when he saw all the firemen. When they all trooped out to the porch to discuss logistics, Nathaniel firmly shut the door behind them.  In spite of that, they took his mommy away.

At the hospital, they said she had pneumonia and gave her a prescription. By this time, I had hired some men to finish shoveling the driveway. Phil drove to the hospital in our 4WD Subaru on barely-cleared roads, took Becky to pick up her prescription, and drove her home. 

Every thing was shut down on Monday. On Tuesday, Phil drove me to Silver Spring for a long-overdue dental appointment. The roads were a mess, rutted and slippery. It took us an hour to get out of Laurel, but once we were on I-95 and the Beltway, there were no problems. 

The snow started again (this time it was a major coastal storm) Tuesday night and blew and blustered all day Wednesday. It finally stopped last night. We've had a total of 3 and 1/2 feet from both storms.

It's Thursday. Choir is canceled tonight, and maybe there will be no church again on Sunday. Phil hasn't been to work all week. He is once again shoveling the driveway. The sun is shining. Our son-in-law picked up a few things for us at the store and dropped off Andrew, our 7-year-old grandson. He and his grandfather will go sledding this afternoon.  Who knows what the roads will be like tomorrow? 

Oh, to be more like Georgie, our cat! Although blowing and drifting snow kept her from pursuing her favorite activities on  "her" screened porch this week, she quickly found a new way to have fun. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

If You Can't Build Your Bones, Build Your Vocabulary

Ladies, did you know that you can no longer build bone after menopause? Once you reach that splendid milestone, you've stuck with the bones you've got. Oh, sure, I know that ads for drugs such as Boniva promise that you can stop and even "reverse" bone loss, but you'll never get back the bones you had when you were a giddy young thing in your twenties.

I was diagnosed with osteoporosis in April, 2000, when I was 59. I was put on Fosamax (10 mg/day) and stayed on it for nearly 10 years. The day my sister fractured her left femur in mid-November by bumping into a wheelchair ( it was parked by the door to be returned to the rental store two months after her foot surgery), I vaguely remembered a report I'd read in the summer of 2008 suggesting that long-term use of Fosamax appeared to be associated with "low-energy" femur fractures like my sister's. As soon as the anesthetic from her femur surgery wore off, my sister was sitting up in bed with her laptop,  busily researching femur fractures on the internet. When I fractured my own femur two weeks later,  I became just as interested as she was in finding out all I could about Fosamax and femur fractures. Fortunately, my sister sent me about a dozen articles by doctors who are researching the Fosamax/femur-fracture connection.

The most notable quote from the stack of articles: "Their physician had them on Fosamax believing it was a relatively benign drug used to treat osteoporosis," says Dr. Lorich. "What we found was that the patients having these fractures had been on the bisphosphonate for several years, and it was turning their bone off from healing." From Orthopaedic Trauma Today, Premier Issue, Spring 2008.

My industrious sister also found an on-line support group of 30 women and 1 man who had all taken Fosamax for at least four years and who had all all sustained low-energy fractures of their femurs (some bilateral). One unfortunate person experienced both bilateral femur fractures and osteonecrosis (jaw bone death), another suspected side-effect of long-term Fosamax use.

Anyway, medical dictionary in hand, I have carefully read all the articles and the stories provided by  the members of the online support group and have learned many new words:

bisphosphonates:   drugs such as Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel

bone turnover:  the breakdown of old bone (by osteoclasts) and the creation of new (by osteoblasts). Bisphosphanates are thought to interfere with this natural process.

comminuted:  a fracture in which the bone breaks into many small pieces

cortex:  the outer layer of the bone

diaphyseal:  refers to a fracture of the shaft of the femur

femur:  the thigh bone

hypertrophy: overgrowth, thickening (of the cortex). The bone may appear strong on a bone scan, but actually be quite brittle.            
IM rod: intramedullary rod. Metal rod implanted surgically that replaces the marrow of the femur and stabilizes the bone

low-energy fracture: a fracture that occurs from a standing height or less, which normally would not happen unless the bone were severely diseased or very brittle

osteoblast: cells that build up new bone

osteoclast: cells that break down old bone

osteonecrosis: bone death. In the bisphosphonate context, jaw-bone death. Merck, the maker of Fosamax, has been sued by dental patients who took Fosamax and whose jaw bones collapsed or developed open wounds after dental procedures.

osteopenia: the thinning of bones that occurs naturally with aging, which may progress to osteoporosis in time.

stress reaction: a microscopic disruption in the bone that is not repaired, eventually resulting in a fracture

subtrochanteric:  refers to to a femur fracture occuring below the lesser trochanter. See trochanter.

trochanter: bony structure(s) on top of thigh bone shaft, close to the hip. There are actually two trochanters, the greater and the lesser. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bone Pome

Femur, fyemur, foemur, fummer,
Hope I walk OK next summer.
If I can't, then what a bummer!
Femur, fyemur, foemur, fummer.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Six Weeks' Check Up

I saw Dr. Alam yesterday for my six-weeks' check-up. The x-rays show that the bone is mending nicely. The doctor was pleased with my mobility, but he said I should hold off on driving for another two weeks. :-(

When I mentioned that I needed a "left-handed" cane, he looked puzzled. I showed him the cane I'd been using. It had belonged to Mom. She picked it out because it did not look like an "old lady" cane. At age 97, she was not about to go out in public looking like an old lady.  Instead of a crook, her cane had a molded handpiece of black simulated wood, making it look more like an Irish walking stick than a cane.  It was her idea of a  compromise, because she didn't "need" a cane at all and was only getting one to shut me (and her doctor) up. Since it was molded to fit her right hand, it was all wrong for me. Here's a bit of "arcane" knowledge: if your right leg is injured, you hold your cane in your left hand, and vice-versa.  Dr. Alam gave me an "old lady" cane and I went home happy.

On Monday, I will start outpatient physical therapy, three times a week for four weeks.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Progress (of sorts) Report

Next Friday I have an appointment with my surgeon. It will be six weeks since my  surgery to "rod" a broken femur. I hope he gives me a green light on driving. Starting the week of January 18th, I will have outpatient physical therapy two or three times a week for four weeks. I would like to be able to drive myself rather than imposing on Phil.

I've definitely turned the corner on pain. It's now a "one" on a scale of one-to-ten, with ten being the worst. Although there were times when, even on morphine, the pain seemed more like a "fifteen," those days are over. Now my complaint is stiffness. I feel like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz after a cold, drenching rain. Does anyone have an oilcan? I have all but abandoned the walker around the house. I get around by holding onto things if I need to. Otherwise I just hobble along, looking like a drunken sailor on a tossing ship. It would be nice to walk more or less gracefully again.