TERRY PRONE: Threat of a broken hip is a bitter, ageist pill for the mature woman

I may not be transparent and accountable, but I am compliant.

I am so compliant, you wouldn’t believe. I get up early on Saturday, when you’re still in the scratcher, in order to stand upright for half an hour.

This regimen is courtesy of Dr A, my GP, the one with the eyelashes. Generally, Dr A is a sweetheart. She can turn nasty in a second though, as she did recently with me. One minute she was looking in a neutral way at her computer. The next I was getting the full outrage treatment.

I hadn’t filled out the Fosavance prescription, she said, shocked. True, true. I hung my head just a little, but pointed out that this is the medication from hell. I had read the leaflet. The leaflets that come with any medicine knock spots off Love/Hate when it comes to brutality and gratuitous cruelty. Just about the only thing they don’t threaten you with is killing your cat.

Even if the medicine itself is pretty minor, the caveats with which it comes covered are always frightening. They tend to start with the pretty common side effects, which seem to follow no logic, because the same medicine can make you lose your appetite or make you eat all the pies and then move on to the crisps and doughnuts. That’s before you develop the rash and experience dizziness, irritability, and headaches.

Then they move on to the less frequent symptoms, which run anywhere from memory loss to hallucinations and sleeplessness. If you were already getting irritable, these symptoms would put you nearer the edge.

Finally, they get to the symptoms that happen in, oh, only one in a half a million people taking the medicine, which is just as well, because the rare symptoms make the kid in The Exorcist with the circling head look normal.

If you’re unlucky, according to the leaflets, you could get hoose, worms and mange, have one of your arms fall off and develop acid reflux. If you drink alcohol at the same time, there’s no limit to the number of limbs you could lose.

We’re all familiar with these worrying notes, but the Fosavance leaflet is a little shop of horrors all to itself. Have a look at it on the web. This tablet — even if you seriously need it and take it exactly as you should — can make bits of you go wrong that you didn’t even know you had and accordingly never properly appreciated when they were working fine. It’s a strange invitation: Pay a fortune for a pill you take once a week for something you may or may not have, knowing the medicine may give you problems you would not wish on yourself even in your most masochistic moods.

That’s the thing about Fosavance. This posh-sounding medication stops your bones turning to chalk, as tends to happen to women who are pushing on.

You may have been led to believe your bones would see sense if you hit them with plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and exercise, but Fosavance swept all that soft stuff off the agenda. Time to woman up and take the hard drug.

Which requires you to get out of bed, let neither coffee nor porridge nor a croissant past your lips, stand up, take the pill, drink a large glass of water with it, and remain upright for half an hour after its ingestion. Bend over at your peril.

That’s a lot of instructions to remember, most of them unpleasant in one way or another. If Himself decides to bring me a cup of coffee in bed on the drug-taking morning, I can’t tell him to stuff it, so I have had to postpone taking the tablet until the next day. Drinking water first thing is never fun. In fact, drinking water any time of the day is dull compared to drinks like coffee and Coke that deliver a caffeine blast.

But it’s the standing up bit that causes me the real problems. I’m sure other people taking this medicine go for a walk or a run to fill in the time before they can bend their person in the middle without causing terrifying symptoms, but I’ve tried the walking thing. It requires you to wear shoes without high heels attached. Unacceptable. Running evokes all those mad sweaty skinny marathoners wrapped in tinfoil at the end of races. Nothing worse.

Other possibilities allowing maintenance of an upright position include taking a long shower or cleaning windows after you’ve taken the pill. Either is grand except for the fact that you can’t drop anything.

No, that’s not quite correct. You can drop something, but you can’t pick it up again, unless you develop the capacity to retrieve it off the floor with your foot, kicking it into the air and catching it mid-light. Otherwise your house fills up with dropped items like a beach fills up with worm casts.

I did not explain all of this to Dr A, who was looking too cross to argue with.

“If you don’t take it and you fall, you’ll break your hip and end up in a nursing home or dead.”

That’s what she said. I had such a desire to smack her, right there. Never mind death and the nursing home, the worst bit was the reference to breaking a hip. This is an age-related possibility I refuse to countenance. Children break their collar bones. Footballers break their femurs. All ages of people break their ankles. But only old ladies break their hips.

Once I got over the desire to clout her, I was quite understanding about her misapprehension.

GPs operate on chronological age. They don’t understand that each of us has an internal age.

ON A good day, mine is 28. Which means I could not possibly break my hip. I know this, because I am an expert in the bone-breaking department. I have now broken ribs, legs, collar bones, jaw, toes, ankles, elbows, femurs. Just about everything except in the spine and the hip. Every other broken bone, I’ve been happy to admit to. A broken toe is riotously funny to those who don’t have it, but breaking a hip is the only fracture that categorises the sufferer, age-wise. It’s the only one with shame attached.

It’s worse than a man losing his hair. Some guys lose their hair when they’re young, so baldness does not, of itself, put an ageing label on them. But it can complicate how a man who is not young is seen. Interestingly, the endlessly charming and professional Marty Whelan recently lashed out a fair amount of money on hair transplants in order to repel ageism and its career-damaging potential. He’s right and more power to him.

Would that the equivalent to hair transplants existed in relation to broken hips, but it doesn’t.

The broken hip is the ultimate gotcha, the most punishing double whammy; if it happens, it’s a disaster, and if you survive it, it sticks the old lady label on you. So I’m standing to attention, taking the tablets, building me a skeleton of pure steel, being compliant.


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