Fill ‘er Up, Doc

I have a health condition – chronic anemia and B-12 deficiency, or pernicious anemia. Namely, my ferritin levels are too low.

Ferritin is a protein in the body that binds to iron; most of the iron stored in the body is bound to ferritin. Ferritin is found in the liver, spleen skeletal muscles, and bone marrow. Only a small amount of ferritin is found in the blood. The amount of ferritin in the blood shows how much iron is stored in your body. In a female, levels should be between 12 and 150 nanograms per milliliter.

Last week when tested, my level was 11. I have been eating ice for the last 2 months. It has been as low as 2, but my Dr. gave me a grave warning not to let it get that low. I was in a totally stupid fugue and it was the first time I was diagnosed. Now I recognize the signs, wait it out (insurance gives me hell unless I’m in a life threatening state), and then schedule my day in La La land. I coordinated my appointment with my visit to Oklahoma because I like my Dr, his nurse, the clinic staff and the fact that they are beyond suggesting oral iron to “see” it if will work – they just get down to the business of healing me.

Once a year, I check into an outpatient hematology clinic for a full day iron infusion. I’m hooked up to IVs with a drowse inducing benadryl cocktail – do a test run (10 minutes or so) and then receive the full dose. It takes most of the day and I’m sedated for the majority of it.

It takes several weeks for the iron to have a full effect, so I experience a gradual demise of symptoms, ride the wave for 8-9 months and then start the decline again. Keith gives me a B-12 injection monthly. When my iron dips and my B-12 can’t sustain me, I experience restless leg syndrome, fatigue, light headedness, sometimes I feel confused and I can’t remember things, there’s the pica (craving to eat ice) and the fact that I’m wearing a sweater when it is 110 degrees outside. I’ve joked that my menopausal hot flashes are canceled out by the cold chills of anemia. The best of both worlds?

The real downside of this treatment is the clinic is primarily for outpatient chemotherapy. It saddens me to see the patients there, with usually a family member or friend at their side. I feel like apologizing because I’m an impostor in their world. Anemia is not on the Richter scale of cancer. I usually chat with my neighbor, trying to keep the conversation light. This will be my 6th treatment in 6 years – and the impact of those battling cancer always leaves a shadow on my heart.


3 responses to “Fill ‘er Up, Doc

  1. They may have shadowed your heart, but I bet you left sunshine on theirs!

    I have never heard of this condition. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain it. I’m so thankful you have an “answer” and have found a doctor you can trust.

  2. I love your heart. You shed some light on a subject that I have only heard of briefly. I struggle with anemia when I am pregnant – and just for that long it is hard… so, I sympathize with you. Keep up spreading the sunshine on others.


  3. Kim, I had no idea it was this serious. Did you have this before the surgery? Now I’m getting a little worried… Anyway, I’m sorry you have to go through this. I experienced something like this when I went to the breast surgeon. There were all these cancer patients there, coming in post-op. I was told everything was fine and to go home. While my heart was filled with joy that I wasn’t in danger, I had to look around the office and realize how truly blessed I really was!!

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