Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pernicious Anemia

So after whining, and complaining, and worrying, and more complaining, I finally decided to go in and talk to Dr. Lenny about how I've been feeling lately (which as we don't need to be reminded was somewhere between a smelly pile of wafting poo, and the leftover scraps of a person who was hit by a bus). I went, I brought my training log, my travel log, my food log, and reviewed 8 years of medical history. Since all of my symptoms are.... nebulous... I wanted to give as clear a picture as I could, in case it was something little that I could do.

The absolute best part of going to the doctor was having Dr. Lenny instantly believe me that "something is wrong". He didn't scoff, and tell me that I'm lying about my mileage, or how much I'm working out, or what I'm eating (he saw the M&M's clearly listed on my food log). He calculated out that I AVERAGED 75 minutes of cardio 6 days a week every week for 2008. He also said immediately that something WAS off, and that he'd work with me as long as it took to find the solution.

Step 1 was to do a barrage of bloodwork on absolutely everything that they could test. If that showed nothing, we'd debate the value of going off BC for long enough that I could get additional hormone level work done. From there, we'd continue looking if we needed to.

Step 1 included thyroid tests, blood glucose levels, cholesterol, iron, b12, calcium, STD's, blood cell counts... basically every test that was not a test of estrogen levels, since we couldn't do that one.

The good news is that we found only one obvious discrepancy. I have NO B12 in my system- this is nearly impossible because B12 is in basically everything that I eat. In fact, my food log shows that I'm well over my daily intake requirements of B12. However, I have none. How does this happen? Basically, my body has stopped being able to metabolize/absorb the B12 into my body. This can happen for a variety of reasons, though the most likely is because of my underlying estrogen level issues. The inability to absorb B12 is called Pernicious Anemia (and yes I almost had a heart attack when my doctor gave me this name - for those of you who don't know, the simple definition of pernicious is death. Aparently the clinical definition is the death of an organ or bodily function).

B12 is what helps you put oxygen into your red blood cells and then take that oxygen to your organs and muscles. A lack of B12 can cause - fatigue, complete exhaustion, tingling in hands and feet, low blood pressure, low body temperature, basically absolutely every symptom I've been feeling. Unlike regular anemia, my iron levels are just fine, but the symptoms are very similar. Luckily, there's a very very easy solution - I need to go on a B12 shot regimen (the pills don't work, because they still require me to metabolize, which I cannot do). That's it. The shot location doesn't even hurt afterwards - and I should know, I had to get four of them yesterday to get myself back up to normal levels. I could feel the tiredness melt away as each shot was administered. It was like getting 12 hours of sleep in 10 minutes.

It was amazing that as soon as we knew what was wrong, all of the puzzle pieces fit perfectly into a picture, when just days before they were a big jumble that made no sense to anyone. My doc said that I had basically been living in an oxygen deprived world for years - and equated it to trying to climb Mt. Everest every single day. He even mentioned that the fact that airplans have less oxygen than the outside was part of why I was absolutely slayed by my travel. He was frankly stunned that I was training with the condition, and said that he had his money on a SERIOUS PR this summer, once my body got used to actually having oxygen and blood again.

I did go for a run this morning, and athough I didn't miraculously become a 5 minute miler, I was able to run the same time that I had run for this path after two weeks of extra sleep and no travel. Considering that I had a 22 hour day the day before yesterday, and crossed the country twice in four days (never mind not getting the standard weekend relax time that I generally NEED to keep going) I felt really good out there. In fact, I did notice a couple of body reactions that were interesting. One, my face did not get nearly as red as normal, and it calmed down by the time I got out of the shower, not 2+ hours later. I felt like I was sweating more, but working less hard. Also, the weirdest thing - about halfway through the run, I could feel the blood pumping in my fingers, almost like I had slammed them in the door, and realized that I hadn't felt my fingers when running for a long time. It was sort of weird, but still felt remarkable at the same time.

This is the acknowledgement section of my post. I want to thank a lot of people who in one way or another inspired me to go to the doctor armed and ready, and hope that they would be willing to listen - some who know me, and some who don't know me at all.

Lilac - who has been telling me for over a year that I need to go to the doctor because I know that something is off - and her mom Larue, who mentioned that she was concerned about it back in 2004 when I was completely oblivious.

Iron "Geek Girl" Misty - who writes the blog The Athena Diaries. She is also a plus sized athlete who suffers from several of the same symptoms (different condition), and has been very forthcoming in writing about her medical struggles and her relief in actually identifying the problem. She was the one who finally convinced me to go to the doc, even though she has no idea that she did it.

Lady Tiara - Has continued to be positive, and supportive of my efforts, small or herculean, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that blast of fresh positive air when she puts a comment on my blog.

My Mom and Dad have both been very pushy about my health lately, mainly because they were struggling with the most stubborn person on earth, but the fact that they both still care enough to tell me to go to the doctor means a lot.

Momo - Has been struggling with an injury, and although not a health related issue, it's reminded me that I HAVE the power to attempt to figure out what is wrong with me, and the opportunity to make myself feel better. I know she'd kill for an opportunity to feel better right now, so I took that and used it as inspiration for me! It worked.

Drums, my bro, has listened to every single variation of conversation that I wanted to have and did have with my doc, and he has continued to be suportive, even though I've talked of nothing else for the last two weeks.

Here's hoping it will continue to help!

1 comment:

  1. i think one of the most important things we can do is find a doctor that LISTENS to us. no one knows our body better than we do - and when something is off, it is OFF. i am so happy that your doctor was able to find you a fairly simple solution. and don't rule out the 5 mm's just yet! :-) hugs, girl!!