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Queen Consort Camilla's painful family health history with osteoporosis

The royal is raising awareness about how to prevent the disease after watching her mother lose "the will to live.”
/ Source: TODAY

As King Charles III mourns his mother, his wife, Queen Consort Camilla, has been by his side at almost every event, tribute and ceremony.

The monarch has made it clear he’s relying on her support and advice as he takes on his new role.

“I count on the loving help of my darling wife, Camilla,” the king said during his first address to the nation the day after Queen Elizabeth II died on Sept. 8.

Queen Consort Camilla lost her own mother, Rosalind Shand, in 1994 when she died at 72 after suffering from osteoporosis.

The disease weakens bones to the point where they break so easily that even coughing or bumping into something can cause a fracture, the National Institutes of Health noted. Her maternal grandmother also had the condition.

The royal, who is now 75, recalled watching her mother “die slowly, in agony” and directly attributed her death to osteoporosis.

“She lost about eight inches in height and became so bent she was unable to digest her food properly, leaving her with no appetite at all,” Camilla, then-Duchess of Cornwall, wrote in an article in 2011.

“In her later years, she could not breathe without oxygen… I believe that the quality of her life became so dismal, and her suffering so unbearable, that she just gave up the fight and lost the will to live.”

In an interview with the BBC last year, Queen Consort Camilla recalled that her mother sometimes “literally screamed” from pain when she moved or someone touched her: “I remember when a friend of hers came in one day just to give her a hug, her rib broke,” she said.

So little research about osteoporosis was done at the time that when her mother went to see doctors to seek help, they all told her, “Sorry, you’re old,” the royal recalled. The family didn’t know anything about the bone disease either, she said.

Osteoporosis is the major cause of broken bones in postmenopausal women and older men, most often in the hip, spine and the wrist, according to the National Institutes of Health.

When a patient’s spine vertebrae collapse, it can lead to severe back pain, a shorter stature and the inability to stand up straight. Fractures from osteoporosis can lead to a “downward spiral in physical and mental health” that ultimately results in death for some patients, a U.S. Surgeon General’s report warned.

Osteoporosis can run in families, though Queen Consort Camilla hasn’t publicly said whether or not she has the disease. She’s president of the Royal Osteoporosis Society, a UK charity raising awareness about the condition.

Risk factors include being a woman — especially a white or Asian female, being older and having a slender frame. People can prevent osteoporosis by walking and doing other weight-bearing exercises; and eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D.

Queen Consort Camilla said she shows pictures of her mother before and after she developed osteoporosis to her children and grandchildren as a warning: “I would make them look at photographs and say, ‘Look, if you don’t take care, that’s what will happen to you,’” she told the BBC.

Here is what else we know about Queen Consort Camilla’s health history:

She’s had COVID-19

The royal tested positive for COVID-19 in February, one week after her husband contracted the illness for a second time. They are both vaccinated and boosted.

The following month, she said she was still struggling to “shake off” the virus and warned an audience that her “voice might suddenly go and I might start coughing and spluttering,” Hello! magazine reported.

She’s had a hysterectomy

The surgery to remove her uterus took place in 2007 when she was 59. A spokeswoman for the royal declined to discuss the reason for the operation, except that it was not the result of cancer.

Gynecologic cancer is among the conditions that can be treated by a hysterectomy, but the most common reason is uterine fibroids, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The “very common” surgery is also used to treat endometriosis, pelvic support problems, abnormal uterine bleeding and chronic pelvic pain, ACOG noted.

She’s suffered from sinusitis

The condition happens when the tissue lining the sinuses becomes swollen or inflamed, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Camilla was suffering from sinusitis on the day of her wedding to then-Prince Charles in 2005 and “literally couldn’t get out of bed,” according to a book by Penny Junor excerpted in Vanity Fair.

Sinusitis also forced her to cancel a series of engagements in 2012, the BBC reported.

The condition can be chronic. It's caused by an inflammatory reaction or an infection from a virus, bacteria or fungus. Symptoms include fever, headache and pain behind the eyes.

She used to be a smoker

The queen consort “gave up smoking many years ago,” according to the official website of the royal family.

Smoking is a risk factor for osteoporosis.