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Feeling a bit like Lance Armstrong

Posted Oct 26 2012 12:06am
U.S. Postal cycling team

Getting my bag

Last spring, I went to see a hematologist for my chronically low iron counts. I was feeling run down, my training was lackluster, and I wanted a fix for my anemia. The doc put me on iron supplements with vitamin C for absorption and I faithfully took them on a daily basis. I finally went back for a follow up visit on Wednesday and guess where my numbers were? The same old place. Low hemoglobin, low iron stores, low hematocrit.

I was pretty bummed to see this. I’m not necessarily feeling exhausted like I was, but still, trying to run at your best with low iron stores kind of puts you at a disadvantage. The doctor’s suggestion? That I try iron infusions.

Now, I am someone who hates putting anything into my body other than food (and ok, a little wine or beer), so I had to give this some thought. I asked about the side effects, first and foremost. My doctor assured me that, while iron infusions used to cause allergic reactions in many folks, they are now dispensed differently and the bad reactions aren’t much of a concern anymore. Other than that, he said, this was my best bet for “plumping up” my skinny, anemic red cells.

I was pretty sure I was going to try it, but then he said the magic words: “I can guarantee you’ll run better times once your iron levels are up to normal.” Um, ok, let’s bring it.

So yesterday I spent more than an hour hooked up to a bag of iron, feeling a bit like the U.S. Postal team. I have to remind myself, though, that while it feels like cheating, it isn’t–it’s simply helping me become normal when it comes to red counts. For the next three weeks, I’ll get a weekly infusion and then have two weeks off before my marathon (the doctor thought this was the way to go). Post marathon, my doctor will run my numbers again and if still low, I’ll go back for four more treatments. So only time will tell if this approach is the right fix, but I can tell you, I’m certainly hopeful it is.

Anyone else battle anemia in the past? Did oral iron supplements do the trick for you? 

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