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RR100: Casting Doubts (a medical rant)


Warning:  it’s 4am, I’ve been awake since 2am, and I’m not necessarily firing on all cylinders right now.  I really should be sleeping, but I’m obviously not!  Perhaps not the best time to write a blog post, but whatever. 

Two months ago, during a routine visit, my doc informed me about a couple of things in my blood that were off, and that she wanted to recheck them.  This past Friday I had the follow-up appointment, and unfortunately the numbers were worse.  She’s sending me on to a hematologist, which isn’t the first time I’ve been referred to one.  At least my current doc is smart enough to let her patients know that the majority of hematologists work out of oncology (cancer) clinics.  I didn’t know that’s how it was set up the first time I was sent to a hematologist.  There’s a lot of things that can go through your mind when you’re the only patient in the waiting room with a full head of hair.

The last time I went through this medical circus, I ended up with a diagnosis that basically means nothing to me.  It doesn’t affect my daily life, it’s just a label that sits there at the back of my mind, reminding me that there’s something wrong with my body but nobody’s really sure what it is.  I mean, my official diagnosis included the word “idiopathic,” which in medical speak translates as “we have no f*cking idea why this is happening to you.”

Now, according to my doc (and the lab reports), I’m anemic.  I know, super common among runners, particularly females (of which I am not, despite my unisex name).   While the majority of cases of anemia are caused by iron deficiency, that’s not the case for me.  My iron levels have gone through the roof, and are dangerously high.  For whatever reason, my body is hoarding iron, but yet I’m not putting it to good use in hemoglobin (the part of the red blood cells that carry oxygen).  The normal course of treatment for high iron is “therapeutic phlebotomy” – aka, donating blood once a week.  But, when you have anemia, you can’t donate that much blood and still function.

Until I get in to see the hematologist, I’m left to just sit here and wonder (and google the sh*t out of all possible explanations).  The high iron?  That’s a long-term issue, and one that doesn’t affect my ability to run the Rocky Raccoon 100 ultramarathon.  The anemia though?  That one has me worried.  I’m worried that my energy level is just going to tank midway through, and I won’t have a choice but to DNF.  Or that I’ll end up using it as an excuse to drop – “I’m really tired, and since I’m anemic it’s probably not smart for me to continue.”  Hopefully I won’t use it as an excuse, but I can’t be responsible for my thoughts/actions when I’m 68 miles into a race.



  1. SoWhatIRun says:

    Ugh! I hope whatever it is It’s a simple fix. Sending you positive healing vibes!

  2. erin says:

    Hope everything is ok and they determine what’s wrong!

  3. Very interesting- did any of the doctors ever say it’s because of your vegan diet? I know some are quick to blame that!
    I really hope they can figure things out for you and that it’s ok. In the meantime, keep working on that mental game for those late miles!

    • I was really nervous about bringing up my diet to the last hematologist I saw (in a different city), but his support caught me off guard. He worked in oncology, and knew the correlation between cancer and non-vegan diets. When we moved to Texas, I specifically sought out a family doctor that was familiar with veg, and is a vegetarian herself. We’ll see what this new hematologist has to say!

  4. My wife has a genetic condition called “hemochromatosis”. She is asymptomatic, but your symptoms sure sound similar to what I’ve read in the past. Good luck getting this figured out!

  5. runsaltrun says:

    Oh geez I’m sorry. 😦 I really hope they can get this figured out for you and everything is fine. Don’t give up!!!

  6. piratebobcat says:

    I hope it all gets worked out! I don’t know what my iron levels are, but they are probably high due to the fact that I like Guinness.

  7. I hope everything turns out ok!!! Good luck!!!!!!

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