What pain taught dancer Anna Periquet.
WORDS MICHELLE ANN P. SOLIMAN
While preparing for a show in February 2016, dancer Anna Periquet noticed that her right foot was swollen. One painful fall later, she decided to go to the hospital to have it checked. “They did an X-ray, there were multiple fractures. I didn’t know they were building,” she told High Life. “I had bones like that of an 80-year-old woman.”
Ms. Periquet, whose day job is serving as vice-president for corporate affairs of Metro Retail Stores Group, Inc., hit rock bottom when she was diagnosed with full-blown osteoporosis: her T-Score (one of three values used in evaluating the disease) came back -3; normal values range from -1 and up. “To say that I was shocked at the news is an understatement. It was a situation that I could not even begin to fathom, could not believe can happen to me. I thought only the elderly and inactive people get osteoporosis. It was only a word to me before I discovered that I—at 50 then—actually had it,” she said. “Four days after my diagnosis, I found myself in a hopeless, helpless, desperate condition—I could not move a single part of my body; even a slight touch sent me screaming, writhing in excruciating pain.”
Her long-lasting love affair with dance and its many forms, which made her keenly aware of her corporeal self, compounded her agony. She knew what her flesh and bones were capable of, having been active in DanceSport or competitive ballroom dancing for seven years before retiring in 2013, with several championships under her belt. In the early days of her disease, the most mundane of tasks became a battle. “From making that first step out of bed in the morning, I was assaulted with pain in my back, legs, knees, and feet—even my toes and fingers,” she said.
Ms. Periquet fit the profile of an osteoporotic: slim, small-framed, of Eurasian descent, and menopausal. She went on medical leave and chose to keep her condition to herself. A regular physical therapy program, proper nutrition, and medication helped her get back to a point where she could get out of bed without wanting to burst into tears. “The amount of work that I needed to do to regain my strength—despite the pain—was not even a fraction of the kind of exercise that my body was used to, and yet I was grateful that slowly, steadily, I was able to do them.”
For the recovering dancer, coping with her illness meant coming to terms with it and keeping a positive outlook. “The moment I accepted my illness and embraced the pain, everything started to change. I focused on healing myself physically, emotionally, mentally—and I felt the difference,” she said.
In 2017, Ms. Periquet became the first non-doctor member of the Osteoporosis Society of the Philippines Foundation, Inc., an organization that aims to disseminate information to the public, and conduct research on prevention and treatment. “Accurate diagnosis and early action can truly save women and men from suffering the physical and emotional pain of this disease,” she said, adding that osteoporosis is not a disease for elderly women; contrary to belief, it is “a disease that can strike us all whether we are men or women, young or old.”
Three years since receiving the life-changing news that she was osteoporotic, Ms. Periquet is back on her feet. She’s off therapy, she does acupuncture and yoga, and she’s back to dancing.
“For the first time since I got my diagnosis, I woke up with a big smile on my face. I felt revived, refreshed rebooted, with the pain in my body reduced significantly. I realized life must go on in spite of osteoporosis. Life’s too good to be missing out on it,” she said of that all-important turning point, when she accepted that she would have to live with chronic pain. “I sincerely believe that life is and will always be beautiful, even with this disease.”