I felt tired always- turns out I have anemia

Last Updated on May 14, 2024

I have always felt tired during most part of my life. The basis of how this blog had started in 2007 was because I wanted to find ways to cure the constant fatigue that I had been feeling. Initially I thought the culprit was sugar but turns out, it was not. I have tried all sorts of things- joining gym, cut out sugar, vegetarian diet, glyceamix food…. but the problems kept coming back.

During the end of last year when my mom was in ICU, I was not allowed to visit her (the hospital policy due to concern of critically ill patients being infected with Covid by visitors). So I finally went to see a doctor, explaining to the doctor that I had not had a proper checkup done for more than 7 years. My guess was probably more than 10 years because when I was working, I was also too busy to go and get a proper checkup done.

My mom was subsequently moved from ICU to a common ward when her condition stabilized after she had a tracheostomy done. And from there, I stayed with her in the hospital for another two weeks in private wing to be able to learn up how to properly care for my mom with guidance from the nurses.

I explained my symptoms to the doctor that sometimes I felt difficulty breathing and being tired all the time. I requested the doctor to run as many tests as possible and he had kindly ordered both blood and urine tests, as well as chest Xray and heart monitoring test for me.

When the results came back, I did not have any of the usual suspects like high cholesterol or high blood sugar. He told me that my red blood cells were less and smaller than normal and he said I could either have anemia or thalasemia….. a more detailed test would be required. Iron supplements would helo with anemia but would be detrimental for thalasemia.

Since my mom went on tube feeding close to 3 years ago, I was not able to get a full night’s sleep, ie a full 7 or 8 hours sleep. At first it was only 2 or 3 hours, then wake up to attend to my mom, then sleep again. Then later as my mom got more stable, I could clock in about 4 to 6 hours of sleep, but it is usually about 4 hours. I would then ‘catch up’ with naps in between in the day.

Between thalasemia and anemia, I suspected it would likely be anemia as my brother had it when he was younger. Like me, both of us drank a lot of tea- my brother when young hated to drink plain water and he would only drink Chinese tea. For me, I had been drinking tea in the afternoons for a few months. Tea is known to be detrimental for those with conditions like anemia and fatigue.

My mom had some excess  prescription of multivitamin and folic acid (because whenever she gets hospitalized, the hospital would provide the medication and when discharged, they would give extra medication, causing me to end up with surplus medication of the ones we have at home).  I took some folic acid and multivitamin, and I would notice only a tiny bit of improvement.

After my mom got discharged, I set up an appointment with her primary care doctor so that both my mom and my appointment could fall on the same session under the same doctor since I had to be with my mom all the time. When the second blood test was done, I was quite surprised that the blood being drawn out were blackish instead of the normal red colour. Test results came back the same, red blood cells were insufficient and abnormally smaller than normal.

He prescribed me with the following:

  • Iron supplements (ferrous fumarate tablet 200mg)- 2 tablets to be taken each time twice a day (morning and evening)
  • Multivitamin (one tablet a day, morning)
  • Folic acid (one tablet a day, morning)

Within a few days of starting on iron supplements, the overwhelming feeling fatigue mostly went off. The kind of tiredness I felt was very different- it could not be relieved by rest. When I rest I would sometimes even feel more tired and difficult to get up. But if I don’t rest, I had to push through my caregiving duties through willpower and determination as well as doing breath meditation practice while going about the tasks.

So far I have been on the iron supplements for about a month. While I am not brimming with energy (since I am also getting older and still do not get a full night’s sleep each day), I do not feel that kind of dead lead feeling which makes it hard for me to get up.

Hence, if you are feeling tired all the time, you may choose to go for the blood test packages that hospitals and certain clinics offers, or you may see a GP, explained your situation and have blood test done. It really did not occur to me at all that I had anemia because my face is not pale.

Whereas when my brother had it when he was young, he was thin, pale and tired all the time. Aside from iron supplements, my mom also boiled a lot of Chinese soup, usually using pork liver to nourish my brother’s health back. In Chinese healing, it is said to provide food based on the organ the person is deficient in. So if there is issue with blood, then they would be given liver soup, if lungs- then the lungs. This came from knowledge thousands of years ago and whether it works or not…. well, my brother recovered within a few months and from then did not have a relapse till now as my mom had successfully treated the deficiency in his body.  When the soups were boiled for my brother, I hated to drink it but ….one look from my mom would get me to drink the soup. Yucky, yes but I was able to get through most of my childhood thankfully with seldom falling sick.

Before I knew the condition, I was able to manage caring for my now bedridden mom by myself because when I have learned to use in and out breath – to be mindful of my breath and breathe in and picture the breath nourishing my body.  I also cut down my screen time (I usually watch YouTube education videos) and another thing…. I also find eliminating negative emotions. I do not let actions and words of others affect me much, nor I take things personally- because I find dwelling in any negative emotions can drain my energy very quickly.

Literally I had to learn to let go and really prioritize in order to maintain my energy levels to fulfill my caregiving towards my mother which is my main priority. Therefore sometimes I find illness can be a great teacher or a catalyst that forces us to change for the better.

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