I just want to say that I am not a medical professional. The opinions expressed in this post are purely one hundred percent my own and should be read as such. What works for me may not, or will not, work for you. Please consult your doctor for advice.
Everywhere I go, I bring a sweater. Despite the fact that in the Outer Rings of Hell (a.k.a Arizona), it can get up to 115 degrees.
Inside, I’m always cold. The grocery store, the mall, the movie theater, a restaurant, the apartment Mr. Ex and I shared (he liked to keep it at 71 degrees year round and I hated it). Laugh at me all you want for wearing a sweater, but I’ll be the one laughing at you when you’re huggin’ yourself while we’re having lunch somewhere.
But I digress.
I never thought anything of being cold because my Mom and Sis get cold, too.
For about four years, I’d been experiencing moments of dizziness. I didn’t think anything of it because 1) I wasn’t incapacitated and 2) it was only happening occasionally. I was also feeling fatigued, like I could totally sleep longer on the weekends but would force myself to get up at 9:30am. I just attributed that to the fact that “Hello, my name is Miz Celise and I’m a Night Owl.” I have, on more than one occasion, been known to stay up until 2am reading.
On a weeknight.
Where I would have to get up at 7am the following morning for work.
I get it. That’s no bueno. But if you’re a bookdragon like I am, you know it’s possible to put down a really good romance book. #justonemorechapter
I would feel even more fatigued when I was on my period, but thought that was normal.
Yeah. That’s not normal.
Around July 2017, I decided to make an appointment with my primary naturopathic doctor when, after doing something simple (like bending down to clean out the litter box), my heart felt like it was trying to beat itself out of my chest when I stood back up; And when the swelling in my ankles wasn’t going away after my period ended.
My previous doctor had left the group practice and I had been reassigned to Dr. G. Since I was a new patient for her, she wanted a full physical done on me. I was completely okay with that because I wanted to find out what the hell was going on with me.
“You’re severely anemic”
When I met with Dr. G in July, she immediately got down to business. You know it’s bad when they pull up a chair next to you instead of across from you.
“Have you passed out at all?” she’d asked me.
“Uhhh…no. Why?” I’d asked.
* Unless you count that one time in the bathtub. More on that later.
“I think it’s a miracle that you haven’t because you’re severely anemic,” she'd announced. “Like, you-need-a-transfusion anemic.”
Then she showed me the test results.
I have to say that even I was a little taken aback.
How bad? I’m gonna break that down in a minute.
What is Anemia?
I needed to be schooled on this. Dr. G had given me a high-level overview, but I wanted to do some digging of my own.
Anemia is a condition in which you don't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body's tissues. Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.
There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe. Treatments for anemia range from taking supplements to undergoing medical procedures. You may be able to prevent some types of anemia by eating a healthy, varied diet.
Anemia signs and symptoms vary depending on the cause of your anemia. They may include:
~Source: Mayo Clinic
Anemia occurs when your blood doesn't have enough red blood cells. This can happen if:
What red blood cells do
Your body makes three types of blood cells — white blood cells to fight infection, platelets to help your blood clot and red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.
Red blood cells contain hemoglobin — an iron-rich protein that gives blood its red color. Hemoglobin enables red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body and to carry carbon dioxide from other parts of the body to your lungs so that it can be exhaled.
Most blood cells, including red blood cells, are produced regularly in your bone marrow — a spongy material found within the cavities of many of your large bones. To produce hemoglobin and red blood cells, your body needs iron, vitamin B-12, folate and other nutrients from the foods you eat.
Causes of anemia
Different types of anemia and their causes include:
How severe is my anemia?
As you can see above, red blood cells are the cat’s pajamas when it comes to this medical issue. I took my test results home and did some more research.
That’s when shit got real:
My hemoglobin levels were at 6.5. The normal range is 11.5 to 16.
My hematocrit levels (this test determines the percentage of red blood cells in the blood) were at 23.8%. Normal range for an adult female should be 38%-46%.
My MCV levels (Mean Corpuscular Volume - the size of red blood cells) was 60.3 fl (femtolitre). Average levels for an adult is between 80 to 100.
My MCH levels (Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin - the average amount of hemoglobin found in the red blood cells) were at 16.5 pg (picograms). Normal MCH levels are around 27pg to 33pg per cell in adults.
My MCHC Levels (Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration - the measurement of how much hemoglobin is inside one red blood cell) was at 27.3 g/dl (grams per deciliter). A normal MCHC level for an adult is 31-37 g/dL.
Due to the above craptastic results, the lab was unable to provide accurate results for twelve other tests.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…
My Ferritin levels (a protein that stores iron, releasing it when your body needs it) were at 5 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter). Typical ranges are 20 to 200 ng/mL in women. To say that my iron "savings account” was almost in the negative was a major understatement.
In addition to being severely anemic, I was also:
1) Pre-Diabetic. My hemoglobin A1c levels (average blood sugar level for the past two to three months) were at 5.7%. Normal range for non-diabetics is 4%-5.6%.
2) Slightly Vitamin D deficient. My Vitamin D levels were at 19.5 ng/ML. A level of 20 to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy people.
3) Sporting a heart murmur.
[Quick side note about the *Bathtub Incident - In June of 2016, I’d gotten sick (from Mr. Ex, no doubt) and had decided to try the same remedy as him: an Epsom salt bath. I’d only soaked for 15 minutes and thought I’d done my best to stay hydrated.
When I was done, I’d stood up and turned on the shower for a cool rinse. The next thing I remember is Mr. Ex sharply calling my name and me jerking awake at the sound. Apparently, I had passed out. When I’d stood up, he’d momentarily left the bathroom. He come back in when he’d heard a loud splash. He’d asked me if I was hurt or bumped my head.
Surprisingly, I had not.
My Chaka Khan protective hairdo (read: untwisted crochet braids) had cushioned the blow. LOL
Note to self: Drink a gallon of water while you’re taking an Epsom salt bath. And stand up slowly.]
So, what happened next?
Well, over the next couple of years, and two different naturopathic doctors, I would:
So, where am I right now?
I’m a little bit in limbo.
The only thing I’m still taking consistently is the Megafood Blood Builder Minis.
I’m staying away from estrogenic foods (to deflect fibroid growth) and doing my best to eat foods rich in iron.
Is my anemia still severe?
I honestly don’t know.
My last blood draw was sometime last year and I haven’t been to see my doctor at all so far this year.
I’ll need to get another pelvic MRI to see if the fibroids have shrunk. Or not.
The fatigue I encounter now is more due to lack of sleep, and doing something simple like leaning over and cleaning my bathtub doesn’t induce an accelerated heartbeat.
The whole month Sis and I quarantined with my parents, I didn’t have a period. I was pretty happy about that because I had forgotten to bring sanitary pads. Since then, I’ve had periods. There’s been some flow, but it hasn’t been heavy and they don’t last long.
I turned 49 last month.
Pretty sure I’m the only woman in the history of women looking forward to menopause. LOL I believe I’ve entered the pre-menopausal stage of my life and I’m currently dealing with hot flashes, but they’re not as bad my Mom’s. Hopefully, the tapering off of my periods will drastically help with this issue.
Last year, Sis and I had gone to a gut health workshop held at this place. What Dr. Haller talked about during that workshop really resonated with me. She made me see that my primary doctor was only treating the symptoms, not the underlying issue (”since that’s not working, let’s try this”). Granted, it was a good start with the progesterone and the customized meal plan, but I felt there was something missing.
And I found it when I went to Dr. Haller’s workshop. Their lifestyle program looks at nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress management, detoxification, and community and social support.
That word jumped out at me because that’s something none of my other doctor’s mentioned.
My primary had wanted to get my anemia under control before talking about my nutritional needs. The DIM Detox I had been taking was for liver detox, which probably would’ve been great. After I’d started with a clean slate.
Dr. Haller’s program is pricey (although they do allow monthly payments) and they don’t do insurance. It’s how they roll. They feel the insurance system is broken (which it is) and that companies dictate the type of care they think you should have versus the type of care you want to have. #IFeelThat
Sis and I went through the consultation process and got accepted into the program (they don’t accept everyone). She signed up in December of last year and I would’ve joined her, but then I got laid off. I’m a temp right now, but once I either get a permanent job (which might be dicey right now) or my current situation becomes more long-term temp assignment, I definitely plan to enroll in the program, too.
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Black goddess musings on life and becoming a sustainably-conscious human being.