Learning to Live with Osteoporosis: A Metaphoric Narrative


  • Richard Hovey McGill University
  • Robert Craig University of Toronto




A philosophical hermeneutic research approach was chosen to explore the meaning of living with osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease. Osteoporosis creates the possibility of living with disabling physical, emotional, and social conditions for the person diagnosed with this serious health condition. The purpose of this study was to interpret the narratives authored by twelve participants living with osteoporosis. The findings provided in this article offer a perspective of how one’s shifting sense of self-renewal was expressed through osteoporosis-specific metaphors, which explicated a transformative process of how one learns to live well with osteoporosis. Three metaphors were identified and interpretively named the shattering, the surrendering, and the dance. An analysis, interpretation, and discussion of these narratives was performed. Consideration was given to how an interpretation of these findings, through metaphor, may benefit others living with osteoporosis, and how those diagnosed in the future can benefit from shared understandings and conversations about the meaning of living with osteoporosis. As people endeavored to make meaning of living with their illness, metaphors provided a useful common ground and invitation for discussion, story-telling, and the development of supportive relationships – all implemented as educative methods to positively transition the impacted persons’ physical, emotional, and social traumas toward the possibility of self-renewal.

Author Biographies

Richard Hovey, McGill University

Richard Hovey earned his Bachelor of Education and Master’s in Exercise/Health Physiology from the Faculty of Education at McGill University and received his PhD in Social Aspects of Illness from the University of Calgary. His previous research studies have included working with patients living with osteoporosis, diabetes and prostate cancer. Richard has worked over a decade as a collaborative researcher and educator in the areas of health, patient safety and patient-centered care.

Robert Craig, University of Toronto

Robert Craig earned his Bachelor of Arts (Hon.) from the University of Toronto and is a researcher with a focus on  interprofessional education, patient-centered care, and simulation in health care.