Anemia–Part 1

anemia

 

Last summer I was diagnosed with severe anemia. I was exhausted but I assumed it was due to preparing to move, selling our home, saying good-bye to our Lansing life while saying hello to our Hermitage life. Those life changes were stressful enough then add severe anemia and I struggled to function.

I’ve been anemic before during my life. I had both fibroids and endometriosis before my hysterectomy in 2006. Both of those diseases can cause anemia as they cause significant loss of menstrual blood. But this recent diagnosis couldn’t be attributed to those diseases.

I was anemic in 2016 and an endoscopy found a stomach ulcer, attributed to taking 800 mgs of ibuprofen for pain. I was ordered to not take it anymore because of the danger to my stomach lining and instead to take omeprazole to heal my ulcer. My blood iron increased to low/normal and I stopped taking the iron supplements.

Then a year ago, routine blood work revealed that I was in the severely anemic category. My Lansing doctor called me, scolded me, then wrote in my medical records, “non-compliant.” Yikes. I started taking iron supplement three times a day and focused on iron-rich foods.

Ugh. Taking oral supplements is hard on the body. It causes constipation, so, in addition I had very little energy and stamina I continually felt bloated. I felt icky and miserable last fall and into the winter.

My new doctor referred me to a hematologist who explained anemia with a metaphor (I understand metaphors!): “It’s like a factory that can’t function because the incoming materials don’t work. It’s not the fault of the factory, it’s the problem with incoming materials.”

In March I had two iron infusions and I could feel a difference after the first one. My blood work a month after the infusions revealed that I was back to low/normal. I return in the summer for follow-up blood work—if my iron levels drop again then a more thorough search for the cause will begin. This might be more endoscopies and colonoscopies (I had them last summer which were clear) and if insurance green-lights, swallowing a camera to see if the problem is in my intestines.

Next-up: the emotional and relational ramifications of anemia.