- Posted February 22, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Impact Your World
Sticks and stones may break my bones but so can words: How bullying caused the development of an incurable disease
At the age of 19 I heard the words that would change my life forever. I went to a follow-up doctor’s appointment after a bone scan, not really expecting anything life-changing. I was a naive teenager and felt invincible compared to the rest of the world. I sat slumped over on the examining bed as the doctor walked in. She proceeded to read my results and said, “I’m sorry Syanne, but you have Osteoporosis”.
I was just a teenager, and I was diagnosed with a disease that kills more women annually than breast cancer. Osteoporosis is a chronic, progressive bone disease that significantly increases the risk for bone fractures, commonly seen in post-menopausal women almost three times my age. A child, or teenager suffering from this disease is exceptionally rare, yet there I was facing a frightening diagnosis. Simply turning in bed, or stepping off of a curb can cause a fracture.
To be specific, I have secondary osteoporosis. It was caused by another medical condition that I had suffered from for a very long time. Actually, it was caused by a mental illness. This physical, bone disease was caused after a decade long battle with Anorexia Nervosa. I battled this eating disorder from the ages of 8-18 ½ years old. I developed Anorexia after being severely bullied in school by my peers. Bullying that consisted of physical beatings, emotional abuse, and mental abuse. I was the only Hispanic girl in my class at the time, and being different made me a target. Sometimes, people try to destroy anything that disrupts their perception of normality, and I was that disruption at the time. I spent months in a harsh eating disorder clinic when I was 16 where I was diagnosed with the beginning stages of osteoporosis, known as osteopenia. When I got out of the clinic, I was harassed by my peers and called “crazy”, which lead to a suicide attempt, and a relapse with Anorexia Nervosa. Who would've thought that bullying would eventually lead to an incurable, irreversible disease? I didn't. But statistics show that more than 75% of people suffering from eating disorders admit that bullying is a significant cause in the development of their disorder. Physical complications as a result are very possible, and something that I have to live with for the rest of my life.
After my diagnosis of osteoporosis, the doctor suggested numerous types of treatments. She proceeded to warn me that these treatments have never been tested on someone so young, so they weren't exactly sure how I would react to these medications. It was alarming to me how expensive each treatment was, even with insurance. The first treatment that was suggested to me was an oral biophosphonate that I had to take weekly. I took it for a total of three weeks, and I couldn't stand it anymore. The adverse effects were intolerable causing me to suffer from intense flu-like symptoms for days on end after each dose. I was sick every week with vomiting and excruciating stomach pain. This prevented me from working and performing simple daily tasks. By the time I would get better, it was time for my next dose. A few months later I was diagnosed with Esophagitis as a result of the biophosphonate.
So, it was onwards to discuss another treatment. The next treatment suggested was an injection I would have to give myself every single day. It is a relatively new medication with few side effects so it was $300 per month WITH insurance, and around $1000 per month without insurance. I don't know anyone who could afford that. It was something I couldn't personally afford, either. I called the medication company to apply for their program that aids patients with the costs of their medication. It seemed that I would be accepted for assistance, but once they found out my age, they denied me. I never really understood why.After that I grew so frustrated with the struggle to find an affordable medication that I just gave up.
It has been nearly three years since my diagnosis, I am now 21 years-old, and I am still not on a treatment plan (except for vitamins) because I simply cannot afford it, and what I can afford causes me to become very ill.
I made a trip to the dentist a few weeks ago and they found that I now also have bone loss in my jaw. They said it was a direct result of the osteoporosis, and advised me that a treatment is now likely necessary. I visited my primary doctor who said that I may no longer have a choice, and I will need treatment or the disease will begin to majorly impact the quality of my life. I will now be deciding on a treatment plan, and will have to find a way to afford it or my health will continue to deteriorate.
Because of my experiences I now focus on making change in my state and across America so that no one has to suffer through what I have gone through. It might come to a shock to my bullies that I am now a pageant beauty queen, and public speaker. I have used my voice to share my story with various news media such as WUSA9 news where I spoke about the long-term effects of bullying, national parenting magazine “Natural Child World” where I shared my story on the correlation between bullying and eating disorders, national television show “The Real Winning Edge” where I shared my story and was introduced by 2013 Miss America (Mallory Hagan), and interviewed with FOX radio show “Women Are Worthy” for Osteoporosis Awareness Month, just to name a few of my media interviews. I have even spoken at the house of delegates on current anti-bullying laws and policies. I’ve also held community forums and events to discuss bullying and its’ effects, and have received invitations to speak at school assemblies. I’ve received many emails from parents about how my story has saved their child’s life. I am a Resource Person for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) which allows me to help families of eating disorder sufferers. I recall one incident where a mother contacted me after seeing one of my television interviews. We spoke, and with my help and advice she was able to seek professional help for her daughter. I am the regional manager for The BULLY Project chapter in Maryland. I held an anti-bullying event where parents brought their children and I remember one particular boy who came in with an attitude and ignored everyone. Once the presentation was finished he had tears in his eyes, and his demeanor changed. His mother approached me a couple of months later and told me that he had previously engaged in bullying behavior, and that the event had completely transformed him as a person.
Though it is too late for me to regain my health, I can prevent future generations from going through something similar, and that is what I aim to do by sharing my story and speaking up.
I hope the public will read this and realize the serious long-term effects of bullying and eating disorders.
All of this is preventable, and it starts with awareness