You might think of someone with anemia being pale, lethargic, sleepy and weak. I know I did, but anemia can be very severe without those symptoms. Anemia can be caused by many things, but in women it is very often caused by heavy periods. Maybe you have always had heavy periods and so you think they are normal. Perhaps you feel since you have not been anemic in the past with them, there is no reason for it to happen in the future.
I am here to shed some light on dangerously low anemia, the kind of anemia where you are just a point or less away from needing a blood transfusion. It is a personal story, it is my story. I am a person that never stops, I go-go-go all the time, I sleep very little and I work a lot. Not the kind of person who would be the poster child for anemia.
For about a year I was noticing after climbing more than one flight of stairs I was winded. I am in shape, I can easily swim and I mean swim for 7 hours straight pulling my 2 youngest children around our lake on a floating mat. I thought it was heart related, it scared me. I started feeling in the last couple of months weird sensation by my sternum. Thought it was breast related, had a mamo, sono and physical exam and my doctor told me all was good. Went back to the doctor thinking it was my heart as I was feeling more tightness in my chest. Sometimes I seemed to feel like I could not get a deep breath. I went for fasting blood work and then a full physical.
The doctor told me that my blood work was always good, but it was exceptionally good this time. I told him about the feeling in my chest, he told me it was probably a strained muscle. I agreed as I was literally throwing logs a few days earlier. He said he would do an EKG to just make sure. EKG was normal. He said he did not feel it was anything heart related but said if I wanted to go to one of the cardiologists in the practice he would take care of it. I said okay as I feel better safe than sorry. Then I asked what my thyroid levels were. I was diagnosed with being hypo thyroid in 2008, right before getting pregnant with my son Luke. He then noticed he had forgotten to send that blood test through. He said he would have the nurse draw it too along with a CBC that was forgotten.
The next evening, he called me at home around 7 pm. He told me I was severely anemic and that would explain all the symptoms I was having in my chest. He said I was close to needing a transfusion. I explained I have heavy periods but that has always been the case. He had me schedule with my OB/GYN and immediately had me take 2 times the iron dosage. I have been taking a very good total health supplement that consists of patented multivitamins and all kinds of supplements but I had not been taking any additional iron. I had also been drinking Matcha Tea which can slow or interfere with the bodies absorption of iron. I stopped that right away.
That very night I started on the iron which I took with additional vitamin C and orange juice to increase absorption. I added a lot of iron rich foods and my OB started me on Progesterone to try to hold off my cycle so we could build up my iron. We also did an endometrial biopsy to make sure that there were no other issues for the bleeding. That came back good and he found nothing out of the ordinary, he said my endometrium was normal for someone who would be ready to ovulate. I continued on the progesterone and on day 31 of my normal 28 day cycles after calling the office and them agreeing it had worked to hold off my cycle, they told me to stop it and then start it again on what would have been the 15th day of my cycle. Within a day of stopping, my cycle returned. I was crushed, how would I build my iron levels. I did not want to go for a hormonal IUD to stop them or anything more drastic. I hoped they would at least be lighter, I was wrong. They were heavier. I immediately had a return to the crushing chest pain that had left me a few weeks prior.
My blood test prior to this showed my iron levels were still very low but slowly rising. Now I am pretty certain I am extremely low. I feel so helpless in a way. I mean, I pray the iron that I have been taking will keep it above transfusion level, but not sure. I am scared and feel I am in a place where my options are many and I am not ready for something radical. I was hoping this regime would work.
I am writing this as I know it is common in women but not many talk about it, not many know that anemia can present itself in an energetic, on-the-go woman who has symptoms of what one might associate with heart issues. If you are feeling like this, make sure you have a CBC to check your iron levels.
If you have experience with this, feel free to share your story.