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Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Ugly Side of Anemia

Anemia is not cool. Sure, it can give you the pasty-pale look that is so trendy in today's vampire-crazed world. But that's really the end of the coolness factor. It doesn't give you super-human strength, and it definitely doesn't make you sparkle. Instead, anemia robs your body of vital oxygen and makes you feel like everything in life takes an extraordinary amount of effort.

Vampires...much sexier than anemics.
We just look blue and gaunt.
Treating anemia can be just as grueling as living without treatment. For most people, anemia is related to low iron. Treating iron-deficiency anemia usually starts with oral supplements. Iron pills work for most people battling anemia. Unfortunately, I am not one of the lucky ones. So instead of taking pills every day, I get to have murky liquid iron injected via IV once a week. Jealous yet? It's about as glamorous as it sounds.

The first time I had infusion therapy was in late 2010. I stopped just short of a 12-week series using Venofer, which looks like Dr. Pepper pumped into your veins. Venofer was not my friend. It takes about four hours to infuse a dose, not including the pre-medication infusion of Benadryl and Zofran -- nor the 45-minute endeavor of trying to find a vein in my arm strong enough to handle the infusion. It felt like hours of my life being sucked away each week.

Then I would go home and deal with side effects. Nausea and fatigue from the drugs would send me straight to bed, where I'd pass out for four to six hours. Then I'd get up, eat a little and remain in a zombie-like state for about 36 hours. In between treatments, I'd suffer night sweats, loss of appetite from the rust-like flavor living in the back of my throat and physical pain from all of the puncture wounds on my arms. That was my life for three months. There were times when my arms were so weak from the punctures that I couldn't even hold my daughter, who was still an infant. The fact that Brian was unemployed at the time was a true blessing.

I had hoped to never go through that again. Unfortunately, my recent labs make it a necessity.

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