A recent fall down a flight of New York City subway stairs could have left television icon Joan Rivers with a few broken bones—or worse. "The only thing hurt was my pride," says Joan, 77, who eight years ago was diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Famous for making light of almost any subject, Joan's taken her osteoporosis diagnosis seriously. As frank as she is about her serial plastic surgeries in her best-selling book, Men Are Stupid and They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery (Simon & Schuster, 2008), Joan's just as willing to dish about her new bone-building routine.
Joan knows the importance of having routine health screenings. But it wasn't until she had a complete workup, at the age of 68, that she had her first bone mineral density (BMD) test, a diagnostic tool that measures bone strength and the risk for osteoporosis.
"The doctor called me and said I had osteoporosis, and that I was going to end up breaking bones—most likely a hip—and be crippled," she says, recalling the results of that BMD test. "I got very upset. I thought my life was going to be over in five years, so I should pack it all in and bubble-wrap myself."
After receiving her primary care physician's news, she decided to take charge of her condition. She sought a second opinion, which confirmed the original diagnosis. However, the second doctor told her that bone loss actually is reversible. "The first doctor didn't tell me that," says Joan. "He just scared the life out of me."
Joan says she immediately began having infusions of a drug proven to fight osteoporosis. After a year, she received much happier news. "The doctor said not only did we stop the bone loss, but we were turning it around."
The Emmy Award-winner's latest project was a WE television network reality show called Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best. It followed what happened when Joan moves in for a while with her daughter, Melissa, and 9-year-old grandson, Cooper. When the show aired in 2011, Joan hinted there will be drama. "My daughter is independent and has her own life," Joan acknowledges. "She doesn't need her mother asking, 'Why aren't you using placemats and cloth napkins?' Every woman runs her establishment differently, so it's a lot of fun," she says.
To keep her bones strong enough to stand up to the kind of stress she endures in her demanding career, Joan continues to take calcium pills and medicine to help prevent bone loss. "I try not to be, but I'm a terrible eater," she confesses. "I wish I could say I eat super-healthy, but I don't. I love junk food—it should be its own food group—so I help my bones with supplements and medicine."
Joan may be a proud grandmother, but she's not ready to sit knitting by the fire. She has no plans of retiring. "Who knows where I'll turn up next," she says.
Photo credit: Charles William Bush