The Incredible Shrinking Patient With Cancer

Cancer treatment-related osteoporosis caused me to shrink two inches.

“Honey, I’m shrinking!” I told my wife after a bone density scan three years ago. She raced into the living room to find out the details. She would be in for quite a shock.

When my wife heard how the scan had gone, she initially thought I was telling a “tall” tale. I like to joke a lot, especially when cancer and its complications start to get me down. It’s a good coping mechanism.

“Are you making this up about shrinking?” my 5’1’’ spouse asked with a wink.

“Nope, I’m really trapped in the body of a smaller man now, so I might as well laugh at my own expense,” I replied, chuckling nervously.

I have osteoporosis, likely brought on by prostate cancer treatment, compromising my bone health by putting me at high risk for fractures. But what I didn’t know at first was that I was actually shrinking.

Two Inches and Counting

In three “short” years, osteoporosis has hacked off two inches of height, reducing me to 5’9”. And apparently, it’s not done with me yet.

I innocently asked the bone density technician what I might be facing in the future, and she was blunt.

“I have a 93-year-old patient who has lost nine inches of height over several years,” she said, sending shock waves into my spinal cord. This 73-year-old guy hopes the injection I’m taking to increase bone mass will slow down the decline. Fingers crossed.

Tall Can Be Cool

We men view our height as a point of pride, a way to stoke our egos. As a kid, I welcomed my growth spurts, especially when I could impress my friends. I towered over many of them, a beanstalk youngster who had yet to fill out, but often good enough to be chosen as the center on our playground’s basketball court.

At home, I had a distinct height edge over my two younger sisters and had an ambition to pass up my 5’11” and three-quarter-inch dad. However, I ended up a half inch shorter than my father. But as dad began to age, he became slightly hunched over. Aging seems to do that with or without the help of osteoporosis. In his 80s, dad finally looked up to me!

But pride and selfish interests are not the only factors at play. I’ve used my height in performing community service, you might say.

I can’t count the times that little old ladies at the grocery store beckoned me to help them reach a can of peas or another item on the top shelf. This small gesture was fulfilling for me. But lately, I’ve been thinking that I’ll one day be asking those same little old ladies for assistance.

So, now that I’m fretting over the short stuff, I’ll probably need a good “shrink” to help me cope. After all, it’s not easy dwindling, slimming down and shriveling, much less receding, tapering off and drooping!

Accepting Reality

I’m just not sure where to go from here. Maybe I need to get on Amazon and order some stilts or elevator shoes.

I’ll just have to embrace the reality that we tend to stoop as we age, just like my dad did, and try to stand up to my osteoporosis. That’s the long and “short” of it!

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