Friday, March 29, 2013

PSA: Take Care of Yourself

Let's see if I remember how to do this. "This" referring to blogging, it has been awhile.  So here is goes...Women....TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH!

For a couple of years, I have neglected my health.  In part, because I am a Mom.  Moms take care of everyone else, before they take care of themselves.  While I'll rush my children to the doctor for a runny nose, it takes an act of Congress to take myself.

Since moving to Virginia over two years ago, I've noticed something slightly off in the health department.  The apparent differences that were obvious to me (or those closest to me) were: my hair stopped growing and started thinning, I noticed my nails were pealing, my skin didn't have its' "natural glow", I was pale, blemishes took forever to fade and I had dark bags all around my eyes.  I contributed these differences to getting older.  I'm heading toward 40, and I just assumed this was normal.

Internal differences were a different story. While I tried to pin my ailments on age, there were some I simply could not ignore.  For starters, I have constant fatigue. However, I contributed the fatigue to my husband being gone for 17 out of 24 months on deployment.  I was raising the kids alone, taking care of the house, dog, and trying to run a small business. Of course I was tired.  I (like 99% of military wives) do not have family close to help out. So yes, I simply contributed my exhaustion to being just that... exhausted with a capital "E".  There were, however, signs that I couldn't ignore such as: shortness of breath, stomach cramping, constant chills, heart palpitations, dizziness, I have also been running a constant low grade fever ranging from 99.8 - 101), achy joints, and at one point, loss of consciousness. I knew something was wrong, but I was ignoring the signs.  I had to ignore the signs, I had to care for my little girls. There was no time to be sick!

When my husband returned home from his deployment five months ago, he noticed a difference in my demeanor.  I had zero energy.  He kept asking me what was wrong.  I think he was trying to link my lethargic behavior to depression.  I wasn't depressed, I simply did not feel good.  But saying, "I don't feel good" is such a broad statement.  To which he would respond, "you never feel good." He would plea with me to go to the doctor, and I would make every excuse not to go.  He would say, "I am home now, it is time for you to take care of yourself," and he was right. I couldn't ignore the nagging signs. To be honest, I was starting to be of no use to my family. Simple tasks were daunting. My heart would beat out of my chest, just tucking my little girls in at night.

I begrudgingly drug myself into the doctor for "the works." I wanted a full physical. My primary was great. She left no stone unturned. She listened to me, and documented my symptoms.  My symptoms were mimicking anything from thyroid disease to an autoimmune disorder. You name it, she tested me for it. Celiac, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lyme,  etc.  Everything came back negative, with the exception of being completely depleted of vitamin D.  I was started on a weekly mega dose of vitamin D, to raise my levels. My cholesterol was low, my sodium was low, my blood pressure was perfect. On paper, I was in tip-top shape.  I went back for a follow up and we revisited my lab results. Turns out, one of my labs was cancelled. For some reason, the lab had voided my red blood counts, and had not contacted my doctor.  Off to the lab she sent me.  I gave more blood and was on my way.

At this point, I'm contributing all of my symptoms to a lack of vitamin D.  Word of caution, when trying to self-diagnose,  Google will have you think you are dying.  On Friday evening, my primary left a message for me (normally the nurse calls to give me a run down of the results). My stomach knotted. Naturally, it was after office hours, so I couldn't call her back.  I spent all weekend thinking I was going to orphan my children.  She said to call her first thing Monday morning.  She called me back before office hours on Monday (how is that for service) and said my new labs were in, and my hemoglobin, hematocrit and ferritin, were in her words "alarmingly low." She immediately got me in touch with a proctologist, she wanted me to have a colonoscopy ASAP. Oh, another symptom I failed to mention (probably because it is personal and very embarrassing), I was suffering severe blood loss when going to the restroom.

Let me tell you ladies, seeing a Proctologist makes your annual exams look like a cake walk.  Talk about M O R T I F Y I N G.  I had to set my pride and embarrassment aside to find out why my hemoglobin was so low.  The specialist immediately ordered a colonoscopy.

I suppose I should clarify what having low hemoglobin, hematocrit and ferritin means.  It means, you are anemic.  While some people will suffer from a mild form of anemia at some point in their lives, I'm battling severe anemia.  The normal range for a woman's hemoglobin is 12 - 16 gm/dl. Normal hematocrit is between 38-46%  At the time of my initial red blood cell count, my hemoglobin was at 7 gm/dl and my hematocrit was 24%.  In layman terms, hemoglobin is what circulates the oxygen through your body and organs.  When your hemoglobin is low, your body starts becoming deprived of oxygen.  When your body is deprived of oxygen, your heart works overtime. This explained why I was having heart palpitations, this explained why I had zero energy, why my hair was falling out, my paleness, dark circles, cold extremities and why I was constantly out of breath.  Everything was starting to make sense.

Side note: I also wanted to contribute all these symptoms to being out of shape, so I re-joined the gym. I did so, prior to taking myself to the doctor.  I would find myself getting winded, just climbing the stairs at the gym to go to yoga.  I took a Zumba class with a friend, mid-way through, I thought I was going to have a heart attack...I ended up sitting the rest of the class out. My ignorance had me believing that I was ridiculously out of shape! Looking back, it wasn't so much ignorance, as it was denial.

In addition to my doctor sending me to a proctologist, she also wanted to monitor my red blood cell levels while waiting to have my colonoscopy.  At the point of the initial results, I was already a candidate for a blood transfusion. However, because I had let this go on so long, my body had some-what acclimated to the low levels.  My husband said, "Oh you are essentially like a Sherpa on Everest."   I suppose that is one way to look at it.....

As the month went on, I began to feel weaker, more fatigued and short of breath. I had become a shell of myself.  Another round of test results came in and my hemoglobin and hematocrit had dropped more.   My hemoglobin level was 6.2 and my hematocrit was 20.5 %.  My doctor instructed me to immediately take myself to the emergency room, if I continued to experience an increase in my shortness of breath, chest pains, etc. I felt like I had finally reached my threshold. My husband and I discussed the severity of the situation. I needed answers and honestly, I felt my life was compromised. I needed reassurance that my heart wasn't going to give out. I wasn't feeling any better, quite the opposite.  We dropped our girls off at our friends house and we went to the hospital.  Five hours later, (despite my heart palpitations), I was deemed safe to go home. My heart is sound.  Must be that resilient Sherpa gene I possess.......

Fast forward to the present week. I have had my colonoscopy, I've had a contrast CT Scan, (among other tests) and everything is clear. I have to return to the Proctologist to discuss some treatments for other digestive issues I am having, but ultimately, my colon is healthy.

Which leads to the real issue....What is contributing to my declining hemoglobin level. Off to another specialist (hematologist). In the meantime, my doctor has suggested I get a blood transfusion, to improve my quality of life.  I will feel better. I will see an increase in my energy and I'll have more stamina to get me through more testing. I'm drained. It has also become apparent to me why I did put my health on the back burner, it would have been impossible for me to endure these countless doctor, ER visits, testing, medical procedures, etc alone with a husband deployed.  This process has been going on two months straight.  I needed my husband home to care for the kids during this time.  So my denial, was more like a preservation mode.

Right now I'm struggling with the idea of having a blood transfusion. My friends and family are encouraging me to have one, but I'm scared. I'm terrified of being that small percentage that receives tainted blood. I'm worried my body will reject the transfusion.  I've worked myself up into a tizzy researching all the pros/cons via Google....I digress...there is a reason they say...ignorance is bliss.

My medical issues pale in comparison to those battling cancer, or other terminal or debilitating illnesses.  I am fortunate to have countless issues ruled out.  I am blessed to be able to deal with these low hemoglobin levels (I'm functional). Others are not so lucky.

So to answer your question, this is why I have taken a break from blogging. I have been busy trying to take care of myself.   I cannot stress this lesson enough...so listen up....Ladies, your families need you HEALTHY and WELL...TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!

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28 comments:

  1. I am SO sorry that you have been dealing with all of this. It sounds really scary. I'm glad that you are now in the process of figuring out what has been happening with your body and I pray that you will get answers and healing soon.

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  2. Ang, thank you for writing this post, and sharing your story. You are so right about trusting your instincts. I'm glad that they were able to run the gamut of tests on you to investigate. I hope you think about the transfusion if it can help you. Sending you prayers that you can get your body healed and get better soon. Lots of hugs your way.

    xox P

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  3. I'm so glad that you updated us. I've been worried about you. You have been in my thoughts and prayers and will continue to be. Such a good reminder that we have to take care of outselves if we want to be able to fully take care and enjoy our children. Get well wishes, Ang. xo

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  4. sweet Ang, I'm so glad you are getting answers, scary as they may be. You're so strong and I'm so proud of you!!! I have every faith that you will be better than new, and you have all my prayers. love you so much!

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  5. Goodness gracious! I am so sorry you that you are going through all of this. I know that you are grateful that your husband is home now and can take care of the girls while you get well! I hope that you have a Happy Easter.

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  6. I adore you, Ang. You are so strong, and your post has definitely pushed me to make an appt for "the works" as well. I'm so glad you finally went in and did the same. Do you have any family or friends who can donate blood to the blood bank? D is having surgery and had to donate in the off chance that he will need a transfusion. Just something I was thinking about when I read your post. Stay off of webmd and google...they'll make you crazy. Take care of yourself, friend. I love you!!!! xoxox Michelle

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  7. I'm so sorry Ang! I pray for you and your health to be on the mend!

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  8. I have been thinking about you a lot! I'm so sorry you are having to deal with all of this, and I hope you start feeling better soon. I will continue to keep you in my prayers!

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  9. Hi Angela! I've followed your blog, twitter, Instagram for a while now and I'm so sorry you are having to go through all of this. Hi Angela! I've followed your blog, twitter, Instagram for a while now and I'm so sorry you are having to go through all of this.

    I felt compelled to comment because this past year, for me, has been the most trying/difficult thing I've ever gone through. In July I was diagnosed a with Leuekemia, so talking about blood levels have become my "thing."

    Anyways, I would definitely recommend a blood transfusion. I know it sounds scary...I was TERRIFIED with my first transfusion but it really is a walk in the park. The worst part is the IV. You would most likely have to take two Tylenol and some Bemadryl prior to the transfusion to prevent you from spiking s fever or having a reaction..if they don't, just request it. Also, I agree with the comment above and see I'd you can have family member or friend donate..if they match, of couse. That might calm your nerves. I have had way too many transfusions, both whole blood and platelets..probably more than 50..and I have only had one reaction. It was platelets and I started coughing, so they stopped the transfusion and then I was fine. (I also would never take Benadryl before hand because I hated the loopy feeling). I promise you will have more energy after. Usually, most doctors/hospital would give a transfusion if it falls below 8..sometimes 7.

    Anyways, if you ever need to talk or have questions, please feel free to email me or tweet me or whatever. Mwblakey@gmail.com or @mwblakey

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  10. I think if I had been 100% out of the loop I would be in tears right now. I am so glad we have kept in touch these past few months. I have severe anemia (9ish while you were a 7, even since I went gluten free I am often low, ESP when on my period) so let's catch up about diet and recipes I use. I hated my first blood transfusion but I swear it is a game changer.
    Love!

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  11. I am so so sorry you are having to go through this, sweet friend. I will be praying for you and praying you find out answers that are easy to fix. Please keep us updated if you can and we will keep praying! Sending lots of love and hugs!

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  12. So sorry to hear you are going through this...but glad you were able to catch it and get it taken care of. Will definitely keep you in my prayers!!!

    Thanks for reminding us women to take care of ourselves. It's so important (even in your 20's) to make better decisions and take care of our bodies...and listen to them.

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  13. hey lady, i've not been on twitter regularly. so sorry you're going through this. i am having my own health issue as well. wish i could just reach through the screen and give a BIG hug. i'll be praying for you:)

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  14. Thinking of you! That is scary. I have been through the Vitamin D issue and that alone is tough without everything else. Sending a hug from my house to yours!

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  15. I don't know you and I don't know your heart. But God is the ultimate healer and physician and designed you. It sounds like for you to be "you"; perhaps it's time to set aside your worries and get a blood transfusion. No one wants to be a shell of who they are for their husband and kids.

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  16. I can't believe the doctors want to put someone else's blood into your body. All you need to do is leave if up to God and you will get just what you deserve. It's hard to understand why bad things happen to good people on the other hand we often reap what we sew. I will pray for you.

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    Replies
    1. I am sure Angela is smart enough not to listen to your CULT anti blood transfusion mantra.

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    2. Anonymous, I thank you for your prayers for Ang-, She is such a wonderful person. Ang- just want you to know I am Always here for you. d

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    3. Anonymous, I thank you for your prayers for Ang-, She is such a wonderful person. Ang- just want you to know I am Always here for you. d

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    4. Anonymous, I thank you for your prayers for Ang-, She is such a wonderful person. Ang- just want you to know I am Always here for you. d

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  17. Sorry to hear you are having these problems. I had the same issue before and rather than give me a blood transfusion, my doctor gave my intravenous iron. It helped tremendously and within a short time I was back to myself. Maybe you can ask your doctor if this would work for you! Good Luck and I hope you feel better soon!

    Kim

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  18. Thanks for sharing your story, Ang! I'll be praying for discernment for you regarding the transfusion and also for answers for your remaining symptoms. So very glad that A is home to help you. Take care!

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  19. Oh my gosh Ang! I cannot believe how much you have been through but I'm glad you're finally getting more information. You poor thing! Sending you all the warm and healing thoughts I can from CA. xoxoxo.

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  20. Oh my friend, I hate that you've been going through all of this. You are one tough cookie. I truly mean it when I say I don't know how military wives do it. Hardest job ever, ESPECIALLY when you have kids to take care of. Wish I were still in HR nd could come bring you a meal or at least some good herbal tea! Praying for you A!

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  21. One month later, I hope you are feeling better now and have received all the answers to what you have been dealing with. : )

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  22. You need to do what you think is the best for you. When it all comes down to it this is your life and your health that you have to take into consideration. You are the only one who can make that decision. I hope that you start feeling better and you get all of the answers that you have been searching for.


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  23. I saw your post on instagram and came over. You should consider magnesium deficiency a possible culprit. Often times when people have heart problems but a healthy heart, it is the culprit. Magnesium is the underpining to so many functions in the body it is absolutely essential that we get enough. It used to be more than abundant in the food supply because it was in water, but because of many factors, one of which is sanitation, it's far harder to get enough. Also, whenever vitamin D is low and ferritin is low, magnesium is low. (and they won't come up until you get magnesium up.) Now, here's the other thing. I bet your blood tests came back with magnesium normal or even high. That's because if the magnesium circulating in the blood gets low, the body pulls magnesium from bones (and other places, but basically it's storage system) to compensate. It will compensate to the detriment of many functions in the body and then you start to see more and more symptoms. Low energy being a huge one.

    Another thing to think about is that many many prescription drugs waste magnesium. So if you've been on anything like that it can make it worse. There's much more I could say, but I'll leave you with two links. Hopefully that doesn't mean you don't see this.
    http://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com/public/882.cfm
    And this can be eye opening. http://gotmag.org/magnesium-deficiency-101/

    There is a test you can take to see how low you are within the cell, it's called the magnesium RBC. (It's not commonly ordered.)

    Anyway, I hope you look into it. I, myself, realized I was mag deficient last year and supplementing with magnesium has literally changed my life! All the best.

    If you want to contact me or ask any questions, you can find me at swimmingwithfrogs @gmail.com

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