When I was officially diagnosed with my second stress fracture (inferior angle of the pubic ramus), it was a weight lifted. I had already spent weeks in pain, speculating why this happened and not even knowing what was exactly wrong; I had never experienced pain like I was in the area it was, and I was embarrassed and frankly terrified. I only told a handful of teammates, I limped through my runs and prayed the pain would just “go away”, and was in an out of gynecology offices who prescribed me a slew of antibiotics for ailments we knew I didn’t have (“well just in case we missed it…”). After an initially negative read on a last-ditch MRI to see if absolutely anything could be found, getting a phone call the next morning with a positive read was a relief. It was an answer, and I was strangely satisfied. I quickly accepted my fate and celebrated with a solo frozen yogurt date, let the good times roll.
In the days following, I had another follow up appointment with my doctor, a meeting with my coach and trainer, and a name for this thing that has successfully benched me for six and a half weeks. My next steps were uncertain, but I knew what I wanted to find out: why. Why did this happen. Why does my pelvis fracture, and how can we stop this. Knowing what was truly wrong was comforting for a few days, but the reality that my fractures are centralized in a painful and difficult region was real enough that I wanted to know more.
Right away I was promised a blood lab and bone density scan. My medical history was exposed, including having taken Accutane for six months (ending August 2017), not knowing what my iron levels were, and assuming that my calcium was shitty and that’s why your bones keep breaking. The most surprising questions I got related to my Accutane use; many hypotheticals and scenarios were developed that sounded like “Well, your Vitamin D levels are probably low because you have to be out of the sun when you take Accutane” and “Accutane can mess up your cholesterol” and “That stuff can cause pre-osteoporosis especially in females” and “Did it make you depressed or sad at all?” and my personal favorite, “I never even remember your skin being that bad, why did you need Accutane?”
I’ve come to accept that playing vampire and practicing safe skin health most likely contributed to my Vitamin D levels being almost 50% lower than the minimum acceptable value for overall health. I have laughably high cholesterol thanks to genetics and the occasional full-fat latte. My calcium levels were great, my iron spot-on, and have been consistently taking a bone health supplement since my blood lab results came back. But one thing that I do not regret is my decision to do Accutane. On the surface, the decision to take this drug for six months knowing the potential and inevitable side effects might seem like an exercise in vanity, but waking up an hour before morning practice to put on enough makeup that no one notices the bruised, cystic acne and scarring, is less an exercise in vanity and more an attempt at self-preservation.
If you’re at all familiar with this medication, maybe you know about the dry skin, nose bleeds, muscle and joint aches, chapped and cracked lips, and potential for depressive states or just overall fatigue. Being a female collegiate athlete of any sport already implies a massive spotlight on how we look, eat, talk, and perform. Your picture is on websites and social media platforms, sometimes you have to give interviews, sometimes weight fluctuates and you’re probably the first one to notice. As much as we don’t like to admit that physical appearance is still regarded, and that body positivity is the new and healthy wave, I hated my own skin. It stung when I noticed peoples’ eyes moving around when I spoke to them, or that I was late to things because I covered up first. Denying young and older women their right to feel however they do about their body or physical appearance is not a solution to the problem that is body insecurity; being angry or sad with the health of my skin didn’t mean that I hated myself. I wanted help. Being frustrated that I’ve lost muscle tone in the last six weeks isn’t a wrong observation, and it’s just that: an observation. We all make decisions to alter or enhance our physical appearance, and to an extent that stays within a healthy realm, it’s okay.
I can wake up in the mornings now, swipe a thin layer of powder over my face and a little mascara on my eyes, and be truly comfortable with what people see. I spend time in the sun again, and I’m getting my Vitamin D levels back up. I still have yet to get a bone density scan, but pre-osteoporosis is the last thing I’m concerned with. I’m fairly certain that my hip alignment is off, and can be corrected as a preventative measure to fractures in my pelvic region. I’m most likely going to have a lot of strengthening and physical therapy to do, and will need constant reminders, but I’m excited to get stronger. I don’t mind pictures being taken anymore. If I had to do it over again, I would. My mental health, well-being, and self confidence are tested often, and important to me. I have learned of so many people who have taken Accutane and we compare side effects and laugh over how many Chapsticks we’ve gone through, and they’re knowing and encouraging conversations. Accutane didn’t give me another stress fracture, but it did give me a renewed sense of confidence and self appreciation. I’d call it a win.
Thanks for coming back, follow if I haven’t totally bored you yet, and if anyone has any good books they’ve read or want to suggest leave a comment! I’ve got a ton of free time these days. 🙂