The Rigors of Being Human
Hi there! Teagan here.
As my friend Tobin revealed to the world in his last post, I am ill. In fact, without treatment I'm terminally ill. After his post, several friends of the site (thestarchildmanifesto.com) suggested I use my own illness as a way to raise awareness of the issue. I thought that was a great idea. I did a little research and discovered that this disorder is much more common than I'd realized.
I have been diagnosed with Pernicious Iron-Deficiency Anemia, which doesn't sound all that terrible or life-threatening. However, the New York Times reported that in America, "Up to 10% or more of adolescent and adult women under 49 years are iron deficient. Hispanic American and African-American women have double the prevalence for anemia compared to Caucasian women." Ten percent or more! And that's just for adolescent females and adult women under 49 years of age. But every age group and gender has been touched by Iron Deficiency #Anemia.
Of course, the majority of those in the U.S. diagnosed with Iron Deficiency Anemia do not die from it. I just happen to have that rare issue of not being able to get enough iron from the foods I eat regardless of the high-iron diet I've been on for a while now. My body simply does not absorb it the way it should because I went without enough for so long. I discovered this about a year and a half ago when I almost died from it. In fact, the Oncologist who treated me informed me he had only ever seen one other patient with such a low iron level and that patient had died because of it!
My family doctor had told me for years I needed to take iron supplements because I was anemic. I never thought much about it. I mean, I ate red meat and iron-laden vegetables. I took iron pills when I remembered to and I was active and otherwise healthy. So what if I couldn't donate blood anymore? I wasn't being affected otherwise. I simply went on about my life without even thinking twice about the anemia, the same as many others I've met who have it. Of course, just when you think everything is fine, that's usually when everything blows up in your face!
I slowly lost all my energy, but I'm a single mom so I didn't think of that as a warning flag. Then, I became allergic to something. I couldn't figure out what was causing me to itch and break out in hives, but something was. It usually happened right after I ate, so I started paying attention to what I'd eaten each time it happened again. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Eventually, just about everything I ate caused an allergic reaction, sometimes even causing my throat to swell closed! This scared me half to death and I made a bee-line to the doctor's office to see what the medical professionals could discover.
I was tested for Celiac disease, but that came back negative. I had never heard of #Celiac disease, but after leaving the doctor's office with yet another order to take iron supplements, I figured I should do some research on things on my own. I discovered that those with Celiac disease cannot consume gluten. That's not the only restriction they have, but it was something I could at least try with my own diet to see if it would help. It did, to an extent. I had far fewer allergic reactions and, as an added bonus, I lost weight.
Hey! I thought I had discovered the world's greatest diet plan. I was loving it until I started getting sick all the time. I would be out running errands or at work and I'd suddenly have to leave because I'd become violently ill. Sometimes I couldn't even drive myself home, I'd get so sick. My hair broke off. I became allergic to toothpaste and mouthwash. The only things I could drink were water and milk (and as fate would have it, I'm lactose intolerant). My memory was suddenly full of holes; my vision started failing and I couldn't seem to get a coherent sentence out to save my life. I felt almost like an infant, I was so weak and helpless. Finally, after I had gotten to the point of not even being able to make it to the restroom in my own home, my family took me to the doctor again to discover what was causing this. He took blood and sent it off to be analyzed.
In the middle of the night, the lab technician contacted him informing him my iron level was so low I needed an emergency blood transfusion! I was used to giving blood, not receiving it! Fortunately, my doctor thought something didn't seem right with my case and he decided to consult with a blood specialist he knew. That doctor just so happened to be the #Oncologist who'd seen my mother through her fight against breast cancer over a decade earlier.
I have to take a moment to thank both of those doctors again. Dr. Mark Mlcak and Dr. Jairo Olivares: You both are miracle workers and, if not for both of you, I never would have made it this far. Thank you so much!
And now, back to my story...
Dr. Olivares had lost his brother long ago to Iron Deficiency Anemia and he knew the best way to resolve this issue for me was not through blood transfusions, but through Iron Infusion treatments. I had never seen the inside of a chemotherapy room before, but I sure got to see one then! It was the same place my mom had gone to get her chemo treatments.
She was so wonderful. She went with me and sat with me throughout the whole thing, making jokes and just keeping my spirits up. I know after her cancer battle she had hoped never to see the inside of that place again, but she went with me. The next morning, I felt wonderful. I hadn't felt that full of life and energetic in years!
Just before being diagnosed, I was fired from my job for taking too many sick days. That meant I had no health insurance. My family paid for what they could of the two infusion treatments I ended up having, but I still owe more for the second one. After the second treatment, I felt like I could take on the world and, as I still owed money for the treatments, I couldn't go back for another one. The Oncologist had recommended I have several Infusions per year for the rest of my life because of my body's inability to absorb iron. I couldn't afford that.
Just recently, I've begun having allergic reactions to foods again. On my last doctor visit a couple of months ago, it was recommended again that I have the Infusions several times a year. I'm still a single mom. I'm getting too weak to work and I still owe from that last treatment. The treatments are over $5,000.00 each, so that means I cannot afford them.
So, some friends suggested I create a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the treatments. I do not like the idea of me just asking people for money - especially not when I'm used to being able to work and provide for myself. But, as I mentioned above, I'm growing weaker and more prone to illness by the day and I certainly can't get back to work without at least one more treatment. Therefore, I have decided to go about this in a different way.
Several years ago, I had a dream that was destined to change my life. No, really. I woke up one morning and couldn't believe the dream I'd had. It was a complete story and I knew right away I had to write it. That's exactly what I did, too. At first, I thought it would turn out to be a quick, one-book story. Now, several years and five books later with the complete outlines of two more still awaiting my attention, I have discovered just how complex and all-encompassing the story is. I work on this thing at home, at work, at lunch... anytime I can find to write, I do and it has still taken me this long to get this far.
My family keeps nagging me about getting it out into the world, but I'm afraid that's a lot easier said than done. I've been sending out queries to agents, but the main thing I've learned with that process is that one can wait a lifetime just to get one's foot in the door. Well, seeing as how I don't have that long, I've decided to put EVOLVE, the first book of the series, together myself as an eBook and to use it to hopefully make enough to get the treatments I need to live. This week, I will put it for sale on Smashwords.com for $2.99 per download. However, for those who donate at least one dollar ($1.00) to the #GoFundMe account I've set up at gofundme.com/gnhes9wk, I will forward a download of the eBook to the email address provided with the donation.
In the meantime, I'm going to contact as many social media groups as I can to spread awareness of just how dangerous Anemia can become if it is ignored. If anyone reading this can suggest a particular podcast, television program, radio station program or any other social media outlet they believe would be willing to help me spread the word, please contact me here at the website or at TeaganBrody@gmail.com. After talking with several females I've met since being diagnosed, I've had enough comments like, "Oh, yeah. My doctor has been telling me for years that I'm anemic." to know there are plenty of others out there who aren't taking this thing seriously. I don't want to be going through all of this again and I certainly wouldn't wish this on anyone else. So, with what time I have left (whether I end up being able to get the treatments I need or not), I'm going to do what I can to make the public aware of just how dangerous Anemia can be for themselves and/or their loved ones.
Thanks for reading and I'm sure we'll all be hearing from dear Tobin soon on this and other subjects.
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Teagan Brody is author of Sci-fi/Fantasy novels. Her writing helps guide the people of Earth toward a better future. Her most common expression is, "What would Thomas Shelby do?"