If one has cancer, anemia is a common side effect (or cancer treatment). As a result, your body’s level of red blood cells dips below average, you don’t have enough red blood cells, and your body cannot effectively circulate oxygen. After another $4,000 of blood tests, my body can’t either create enough red blood cells or destroys them.

Feeling like a fancy geologist, the ‘anemic period’ (i.e., my anemia) was first noticed after blood labs in October 2021. (Of course, no one called to discuss the results or recommend treatment. So, I was left being proactive.) After research, I immediately started taking iron tablets. In January (after informing the clinicians they missed the anemia), the second round of tests showed improvement (likely from the iron supplements). But again, no follow-through.

  • Red Blood Cell Count: 10/21 was 4.19 (L), 01/22 was 4.5 (low side of ‘Normal’)
  • Hemoglobin (Capacity to carry O2): 10/21 was 11.4 (L), 01/22 was 13.3 (low side of ‘Normal’)
  • Hemocrit (% of red blood cells): 10/21 was 35.7 (L), 01/22 was 40.3 (low side of ‘Normal’)
  • Total Iron: 10/21 was 54 (low side of ‘Normal’)
  • White Blood Cell Count: 10/21 was 7.2, 01/22 6.9 (‘Normal’ but slight decrease)
  • Platelet Count (# of Platelets): 10/21 was 361, 01.22 was 280 (‘Normal’ but slight decrease)
  • Iron: tested only in 01/22 and was 54 (low side of ‘Normal’)
  • Ferritin: tested only in 01/22 and was 11 (L)
  • % Saturation (of iron): tested only in 01/22 and was 18 (L)
  • RDW (Red Cell Size (Width)): tested only in 01/22 and was 15.7 (H)

In anemia, the patient is either not making blood cells, destroying them, or losing them. As the iron in my body depleted, ferritin’s iron storage (like a bank) was utilized but became exhausted. Transferrin saturation (% saturation) decreased because no iron was left to replenish the ferritin. While still in the normal range, a lowering white cell count might indicate some form of infection or early cancer. A high RDW of 15.7 shows a non-normal red blood cell population. A high RDW may suggest possible bone marrow impairment (myelodysplasia), iron deficiency, or a response to correct treatment. The doctors have not determined an official cause, and my research, while informative, did not alleviate anemia’s side effects.

Two anemic symptoms bothered me the most: being cold and brain fog. First, the artic cold mass diving down and through the U.S. midwestern states was a central component of my inability to temperature regulate when cold stressed. At one point, my body temperature leveled off at 94.7. (FYI, hypothermia occurs when the body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C). Second, since iron is required to transport oxygen to the body and brain, I experienced several episodes of brain fog. During the attack, I was functional, but my thought, understanding, and memory functions were not ideal. Calculating, organizing and planning activities, and problem-solving were difficult. I felt ‘disconnected.’ However, I received clarity.

Having walked hospitals since 2008, I’ve mentally concluded people will migrate from healthy to ill, to chronically, and to a critically-ill state where recovery seldom occurs. I am no exception. I, too, am likely to be another sojourner on the road. Heck, I am already chronically ill. However, the sorrow of what we all have to endure is significant, but that does not mean God, Christ, the Holy Spirit aren’t there. So, I acknowledged God’s presence without undue offense. But, I also understood He was not there for physical healing, and neither did I request one. I didn’t beg for mercy, and medical procedures, needles, aches, and questions can blow out rational thinking. Yet, I felt God. A divine presence. He was there.

I didn’t turn to scripture and did not have any applicable for the moment. But, think about it; there’s scripture for marriages, death, use of money, ill-goods, lying, cheating, harvest, flowers, marriage in heaven, mercy, love, patience, stoning people to death, etc. There aren’t many scriptures for gut-wrenching bend over the toilet pain as blood oozing out your arse. So, I acknowledged His presence with a simple statement.

“Lord, please provide me the grace, humility, and patience while walking this difficult road. If there is a miracle, give it to a child who needs it more. Your presence is more than enough,” I prayed. As the Apostle Paul noted, God’s grace is sufficient, for His power is made perfect through [your] weakness.” I understand grace, but the ‘power is made perfect’ part? Eh, I haven’t gotten ahold that one (yet). And honestly, while the Buddhist part of me understands suffering arises through attachment and craving, it’s conceptually difficult to focus upon it in significant pain.

Sure, for all the questioning Job did about God’s justice, he got a whirlwind. One difficulty I always had: What insight led Job to submit humbly? Borrowing from Norman Maclean, at the moment, either I didn’t know what part of myself to give or feared that the amount left was unwanted. And that summarizes my relationship to God on many a day. How do I find a way to live with God (who knows us) but continually seems to elude us. Yet, I can still Love God entirely even though I cannot completely understand.

Yes, God was there. He helped me get through it. And no, I cannot explain it.

No one has figured out the anemic cause. If you can deduce anything, let me know.