Published On: Sat, Apr 13th, 2024

osteoporosis, bones, NHS, London marathon | UK | News

Running the London marathon is a daunting prospect for most, but for two women living with osteoporosis it is the latest in a series of challenges they are battling to overcome. 

Diana Gould, 70 and Sabria Stanton-McKellar, 28 will brave the 26.2 mile course next week despite both having been diagnosed with the brittle bone disease that leaves many disabled and facing agonising pain. 

The determined women are among 45 people who are running the London Marathon to raise money for the Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS) in a desperate bid to increase funding and awareness of the disease. 

The Sunday Express has been running a ‘Better Bones’ campaign since last year to fight for better treatment for osteoporosis sufferers. Working with the ROS the paper has been urging the government to give an extra £30 million a year for specialist bone clinics – fracture liaison services in order to end the postcode lottery for timely and appropriate treatment. The ROS estimate this would prevent up to 74,000 fractures by the end of 2028 and save the lives of almost 8,000 women.

Concerned she may have inherited osteoporosis from her “fit and active” late mother, who suffered fractures in her spine from the condition, Diana Gould, from Shrewsbury went for a bone scan five years ago in December 2019.

Despite also being very active, the former senior social worker and mother of two was alarmed to find she was suffering with the potentially devastating condition and was at high risk of a fracture due to bone weakness. 

Since her diagnosis Diana was treated with bone strengthening medication, and has focussed on diet and exercise to improve her bone health. She also took up running ‘one minute at a time’ building up to run the marathon this year. “It was blood sweat and tears, it really was,” she recalled. “Getting from running 0 – 5k was the worst. Then it got easier,” she added. 

Three years on, her bone health has dramatically improved and she no longer worries so much about picking up her two pre-school grandchildren. “You get a message of hopelessness with an osteoporosis diagnosis. But why shouldn’t I carry on improving? There is hope, a lot of hope. People should be screened properly just like they would be for prostate or breast cancer,” she said. 

Sabria Stanton-McKellar from Poplar, London, developed osteoporosis as a consequence of anorexia which had affected her hormonal and nutritional health for many years. She was diagnosed with the brittle bone disease when she was 25 after her GP sent her for a scan due to 7 years of missed periods. Since then she has developed a dedicated exercise and ‘extreme’ fitness regime as well as improving her diet to help bone health. Her bone density has dramatically improved since then.

Sabria, an economic consultant,  said: “I hadn’t known eating disorders and anorexia could be linked to loss of bone mineral. I was shocked at the news. I called the ROS and they told me about the importance of diet and exercise. I focused on my diet and exercise.”

The London Marathon is one of scores of events she joins each year. She said: “Sport is now my entire life, I train daily and took up weight lifting to improve my bone health.”

Her recent scan shows she too has dramatically improved her bone health since she started the regime.”

She added: “I want to raise awareness of this condition but also to highlight the fact that it can affect many including anorexics and people who do a lot of endurance sports which can also affect hormone and bone health.”

Research carried out by the ROS suggests over 50,000 working age women suffer fractures every year, a third of whom are forced out of their jobs onto benefits as a result.  

The charity says ‘ending the postcode lottery for FLS’ would prevent 74,000 fractures by the end of 2028 and save the lives of almost 8,000 women.

Half of women over 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.

Two-thirds of people with osteoporosis – most of them women – are missing out on treatment.

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