Tired Blood: My Battle with Iron Deficiency

For the last few years, I pondered why my energy has plummeted over time. I often speculated if it was somehow linked to my decision to officially become a vegetarian-pescatarian in 2014 or if it had anything to do with stress. Yet I know I shouldn’t make excuses for myself I still do it. This health deficit has really affected my life in so many ways. It has caused me to feel very fatigued and lethargic and appear unmotivated at times. On some days I’ll have this huge rush of energy and on other days I feel like I’ve exhausted all of it even when I may not have done much at all. My body often feels weak and my brain feels tiresome. But what could it be? A good German friend of mine once told me “Vanessa I think you’re just being lazy!” I admire his German predisposition to be transparent with me which is why that statement has probably been the best observational, tough love I’ve ever heard coming from a successful computer scientist who has also struggled with the same issue from time to time. Yet, I’m not entirely sure if it’s laziness hence I continue to feel this way and I’m constantly struggling to overcome it every day. I feel like I’ve experimented with every energy inducer that exists (ie. I drink a cup of coffee every morning and Maca root which provides an even shorter relief) and my flesh still wants to rest. Although I trust that God will bring me out of this I still worry about time and relationships. I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to get things done and it also hinders me from building better relationships with relatives and friends. I can’t ignore that this is the worst time to feel fatigued and that something is wrong.

During this season of fatigue, my appetite has changed. I no longer desire the food I used to love, my ability to maintain healthy communicative relationships with people have declined, and my fatigue and sense of time-lack have led me to regret being less productive on the days when I had less responsibility. Nonetheless, I assumed that inability to sustain an adequate amount of energy throughout the day was probably linked to health problems. After discovering that my mom had Sickle Cell Anemia when I was 10 years old, I then discovered that I had the Sickle Cell trait as a result. But after learning that it as only hereditary, asymptomatic and a non-contagious trait, I didn’t think much of it. However, I am now convinced that my fatigue may be influenced by this trait despite all of the research that proves my argument incorrect. Yet there are some rare cases of people with SST having symptoms. So I expressed my concerns to my primary care physician in which she immediately deduced that there may be an issue with my blood; something occurring internally that is probably the common denominator in all this madness. So I agreed to let them run some tests and she found that I was severely iron deficient. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve been told that I was iron deficient and I am aware that nearly 20 percent of African American women are iron deficient but this was a seemingly different case. My doctor explained that I was so alarmingly iron deficient that it was most likely caused by my blood’s inability to store iron. Our blood contains a protein called ferritin, needed to bind to iron and store it within our bodies. What she was describing was my body’s lack of ferritin or inability to bind the protein to the iron and how that may be linked to cancerous tissues or any other organ problems. Whenever I hear the “C” word I get very afraid. Hence, this was the second time I’ve heard from a medical professional that I may have cancer. I was mortified. I went on a 2-month mission of frequent painful examinations and procedures such as endoscopy, x-ray, and biopsy. I was determined to find out what was wrong with me only to discover that they didn’t find anything…which is a blessing. My doctor later determined that the only plausible issue was my diet. Due to my recent transition to vegetarianism, my body was lacking in a few vital components.  Therefore she prescribed iron supplements and I thought my life was going to improve dramatically. According to her, Iron and B12 were the missing links and by increasing my intake, I will no longer have this issue. We were sadly mistaken.

While taking the 100 supplements, I continued to feel the same way. Initially, I thought I was improving but now I’m convinced that was all psychological. Post-Iron supplement experience, I feel the same way I felt going into it. I’m still unsure if it’s my diet though and I’ve had the sickle cell trait my entire life and have never experienced fatigue the way I do now. All I know is that there is something wrong with me and the doctors may not have been able to detect it yet. Meanwhile, every day is a push for me. Every day I battle against the forces of sleepy-ism and I have to say I’ve been fighting it pretty well lately. Maybe it’s stress. Maybe it’s my depression. Although I’m a little embarrassed to post this, I’ll do it anyway because life is all about transparency right? A lesson I learned from my German friend. Maybe I can help someone out there. Maybe someone knows exactly what I am going through. Maybe we can help each other. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pray about this.


Author: Vanessa Mack

A Christian millennial, fascinated with grace, passionate about learning, tech, finance, expressive writing and encouraging others.

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