Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Isn't It 'Iron'ic?

It's 4:36 AM. I am wide awake after stumbling up to bed at a rather decent hour for a change and crawling into my own tiny piece of heaven aka our bed (with winter comforter instead of lightweight summer blanket - warm, sleeping husband included). It's cool here and getting cooler and I'm too cheap frugal energy conscious to turn on the heat. That's why we have sweatshirts and blankets. And socks.

I'm also a bit punchy, so watch the eff out. Wheeeeeeee!

I don't know what woke me up exactly, but I was immediately aware that 1) my throat hurts and 2) it feels like the cold I've been trying to convince myself was merely allergies (although I firmly believe it started off as allergies) is going to settle into my chest and becoming something nasty.

Why Brooke, you may be thinking, is there really a need to be so pessimistic?

I'd like to point out that I had strep last winter no less than three times. Which brings my 40 year strep throat tally to 4, so it's a little concerning. This geographical area has taken a serious toll on my physical well being. I think it's all the corn and soybeans fields up in here. That's not entirely accurate. I think it's a combination of the harvesting of said corn and soybean fields combined with the avoided yet inescapable fact that we live on glorified swamp land. Tomorrow, if I remain coherent, I'm going to take and post the pictures to prove it.


I emailed the PTO president with my very clever Reading Night bulletin board idea (once it's approved I'll share it, yo) and some other nonsense about what I needed to do for Reading Night. I volunteered to be the committee chair and I am cheesily excited about it, because I love reading and being in charge of things. The fact that I won't be in charge of anyone else but myself (in all likelihood) matters not.

After my email, I was still wide awake so I surfed some blogs and goofed around online and I thought - hey! I should totally do a blog entry. Because who WOULDN'T want to hear what I think about at 3 to 5 AM - especially if I don't actually call them at this unholy hour to tell them what I'm thinking in person?!? I guess it's kinda like drunk dialing, only I'm high from coughing fit induced lack of oxygen rather than any chemical interference.

But per usual, I'm getting off track.

Blog entry. Right.

But what to write about? And then I thought - ooooooooooooh. I know! I'll write about my iron theory. I've done a post today, (technically yesterday) so if no one reads this -and wouldn't THAT just be a tragedy ::snort:: - no big deal.

Here it is. I've had problems with low iron levels for years. The first time I was even made aware was when I was giving blood pretty regularly. I'm type O, the universal donor, which always seems to be in demand. The company I used to work for had blood drives on site pretty often but allowed employees go to the Red Cross to donate while on the clock and use it as volunteer time. Which was pretty awesome of them, truth be told. I would occasionally get turned down for donation because my iron levels were too low. I never even gave it a second thought.

When we were living in Germany and I realized I was pregnant with Sara (since I can apparently only get pregnant while ON birth control (true story)), I had to take a blood test to prove it to the military. I guess they run a series of standard tests on potentially pregnant blood since I got an unrequested call from an actual doctor a few days after the clinic confirmed I was, in fact, pregnant. I guess the three positive home pregnancy tests weren't confirmation enough. I did have a nurse tell me once long, long ago that while women can get false negatives with the home kits, they do not get false positives. Just thought I'd throw that in as a useless piece of trivia. You're welcome!

Focus, Brooke.

Anyway, the doctor called and was uber concerned about my very low iron levels. Probably because of my advanced maternal age. I know he told me what the levels were, but I don't remember anymore. I do remember that he put me on double iron supplements in addition to prenatal vitamins AND they tested my blood every month for the duration of my pregnancy. I should probably mention that I have a history of intense menstrual bleeding and that prior to getting pregnant with Sara, I had a period that lasted pretty much six months straight. Hello, low iron levels!

Fast forward to much more recently, and after a couple years of heavy yet fairly normal menstrual cycles, I had about a four month stretch where my periods were really light. Tubes are tied (sorry if that's TMI) so I knew I wasn't pregnant, and I was pathetically grateful for the break. If this is pre menopause, bring it ON!

Ahh....... but I should have known that there would be payback. In May, I started a menstrual cycle that lasted pretty much until a week ago. My longest break during this cycle? Four days.

I mentioned my concern over excessive blood loss and what that might mean to my cardiologist in July, but no one in his office seemed concerned. Of course he's a heart doctor and not an OB/GYN. I even called the Med Group a couple times to make an appointment with an OB/GYN, but it's doggone near impossible to get an OB/GYN appointment within four days either on or off base. And since I had no way of predicting when or if I'd have a break from the never ending period, I kept putting off the appointment. I should probably also mention that I do have one scheduled for a couple weeks from now. And that I had my first 'normal' period after making the appointment. Figures. ::deep sigh::

So as the never ending period progressed this summer, I found myself with less and less energy and more and more desire to do nothing but sleep. In August, I found myself losing ground with my workouts. Serious ground. By late September/early October if I dragged myself into the gym, I might make it 20 minutes on cardio equipment. Maybe. At the beginning of the summer, I could easily walk at a 3.5 mph pace on the treadmill for 45 minutes. At the beginning of October? I was doing really well to walk for 10 minutes at 2.5.

Secretly, I was terrified that this was a result of my heart issues and that I would soon be carting around a portable oxygen tank and considering myself lucky to make it another 10 years. I cannot even try and explain how much that panicked me. Or how determined I was to avoid dealing with my concerns.

Meanwhile the backslide continued. I was heading into the commissary and got winded walking across the parking lot. I was appalled, scared, worried, and about a million other things all at once. I should also mention that while I bought iron supplements in July or August, I wasn't taking them regularly yet. Well, being winded from not doing anything scared me into a bit of internet research and regular swallowing of iron pills. A search of "symptoms of low iron in women" on my best friend Google resulted in this little list:

  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Increased irritability
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Pale lips
  • Brittle and pale fingernails
  • Pale palms
  • Excessive weakness
  • Constant fatigue
  • Pica (A condition that involves craving for non-eating foods such as paint chips, cigarette butts, ice cubes, paper, clay and so on)

  • I didn't have many headaches, but I could place a nice, fat check mark beside everything else. Well, okay, for the Pica one, I only think so because of my insane love of ice. I would go through cups and cups of ice, especially crushed ice, every day. I've even blogged about my love of ice. Hey, it was slow idea day, don't judge.

    Could it be that most of my issues of the past year were caused simply by low iron levels? Best way to figure that out was to take some iron pills and see. I am now taking a multi vitamin in the morning, and then before bed I take an iron pill.

    Within DAYS I felt better than I had in months. Last week in the gym, I was on the elliptical averaging a speed of about five mph for the first time since the beginning of the summer. My quickest speed? A series of thirty second bursts of over 10 mph. I doubled my distance on the arc trainer without having to increase my time. I ran up the stairs tonight because I was running late for Zumba without losing my breath. \

    The Zumba class I attended on October 3? I had to stop halfway up the ONE flight of stairs and catch my breath. Then I sucked wind for the half lap of the track I had to walk once at the top of the stairs until I got to class. But today? I ran up the stairs, trotted around the track and jumped into class. Easy-peasy.  I can't wait to see what my stats are when I go to the cardiologist this month. Bet they are gonna be awesome! I also have color in my face for the first time in ages. And I think my hair loss is slowing down. I had way less hair come out in the shower yesterday morning. I'm sure my shower drain thanks me. I know for sure my vacuum cleaner will.

    Alrighty then. It's 6 AM and I need to get ready to face my day all sleep deprived and silly.

    Thanks for reading my iron level theory ramblings. I'm sure I'll be properly appalled at this blog entry once I'm well rested and thinking clearly. heh. Then again, maybe not.

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