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Real Life

REAL LIFE: "I've broken 162 bones, but I won't let that break my spirit"

''The pain was unbearable, but I refused to give up.''

By Mitchell Jordan
Bianca Baxter, a 27-year-old from Geraldton in Western Australia, shares her incredible story below.
I hit the ground with a thud and realised I'd toppled 
out of bed.
It was only a short fall, but I knew I had to tell my parents, who took me straight to hospital.
At six years old, visiting the emergency department was nothing new.
I was born with osteogenesis imperfecta – known as OI.
It's a genetic autoimmune condition that causes brittle bones.
Sadly, there was no cure, which was why accidents like falling out of bed had to be taken very seriously.
Bianca was hospitalised at age four. Image: Take 5
A doctor ordered some scans.
"When did Bianca break the bones in her back?" he asked my parents.
None of us were aware this had happened – it was even more proof of how easy it was for me to suffer breaks without even knowing it. 
I was so used to pain that I'd stopped noticing when it got worse.
I tried to live a normal life, but as 
I grew up and watched my classmates whizzing around the playground or riding their bikes home, I was seething with jealousy.
Why can't that be me? I wondered sadly.
Because of OI, I had to be careful, though as a child, it felt like I was locked up.
Thankfully, I discovered my true passion: singing. Belting out a tune brought me so much happiness, even when 
I was in agony from whatever break I'd suffered.
My nanna, Gloria, encouraged me to follow my dreams.
"You're going to make it big," she promised.
Her favourite song was Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire, which I loved singing for her.
"One more time," she begged me afterwards, eager to hear me sing again.
By age two, Bianca had a broken foot. Image: Take 5
My pain was constant – even on good days, I'd give it a five out of 10.
Over the years, I'd tried working in an assortment of jobs, but when employers saw my condition, they knew I was too great a risk.
"I don't blame you," I said 
to my bosses.
I understood my situation could get them in trouble in terms of occupational health and safety.
What really made me angry was being denied a disability allowance from Centrelink, who didn't believe I wasn't capable of working.
But singing was a wonderful form of therapy and offered 
me a much-needed distraction from the discomfort.
So when friends introduced me to a drummer named Aidan, we had lots to talk about. Like me, music was 
his greatest love.
I soon started noticing butterflies in my tummy. Being with him was so much fun.
We began dating and, despite the pain of my condition, I felt like the luckiest woman in the world.
I'd had other relationships before, but no-one had 
ever treated me 
so sweetly. Aidan listened patiently as 
I explained about OI.
"Bianca, you're amazing," he said, in awe 
of how I'd always stayed so positive.
We'd only been together for two weeks when we went for 
a drive with friends.
When she was 
13, Bianca broke her arm. Image: Take 5
As the driver made a sharp turn, a Coke bottle fell from 
the seat, landing on my foot.
"Ouch!" I cried.
Before I knew it, the familiar, throbbing pain returned, quickly growing sharper.
Soon enough I was writhing in agony, feeling as though 
my foot had been chopped off.
Aidan took me straight to hospital, where I waited eight long hours 
to be seen.
"Go home, babe," I told him. "It's getting late and you've got work tomorrow."
"I'm not going anywhere," he insisted.
He even took the next day off to stay with me as I rested.
Aidan and I got married almost one year later and had 
a little boy, Robert.
At three months old, he too was diagnosed with OI.
"This doesn't mean his life 
is over," I told Aidan.
"You're definitely proof of that," he smiled.
Unlike my own childhood, 
I wanted to make sure Robert knew the same joy and excitement of others.
He's four now and enjoys bouncing around on the trampoline and running amok.
Now Bianca and her family are focusing on having fun and getting the most out of life. Image: Take 5
That's not to say I'm not extra-careful with him, as any type of autoimmune condition means you're more susceptible to catching illnesses, but 
I don't want him wrapped in cotton wool, either.
Meanwhile, I've also started taking my singing more seriously and am about to record 
an album.
One of the songs I've written is about my nanna Gloria, thanking her for her love and encouragement to follow my dreams.
Sure, my life hasn't been easy, but I still feel incredibly lucky for all that I have.
So far, I've suffered 126 breaks – that doesn't include my fingers and toes because they occur too often to count.
I refuse to accept that I'm 
a broken woman; I'm strong and I will never let my illness control me.
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