The anemia never really went away. Every new doctor, every physical exam, the answer was, oh yeah, and take some iron. It was when I switched to a terrific young female doctor that something changed. She said, after I had taken my iron faithfully for months, "You know, something's not right here and we need to get it figured out." She sent me to a hematologist, who connected my anemia to a recent bout of GI distress. It was he who first suggested that I might have celiac disease. Blood tests and one endoscopy and biopsy later and the celiac suspicion was confirmed. I've been on the gluten free diet for more than 18 months and I feel better in many ways, but inexplicably my anemia persists.
In the 28 years I've gotten used to being blamed for my anemia. Of course I was anemic when I was 20 -- I was a college student eating junk and drinking too much alcohol. Of course I was anemic through the 1990's and 2000's because I'm a vegetarian and what can I expect if I choose to not eat meat? Of course I'm anemic -- I'm a woman of reproductive age and I carelessly throw away copious amounts of blood every month. When I got the celiac diagnosis, I was both relieved to have an answer and infuriated that no one had suggested looking for a real cause until my new fabulous doctor and hematologist came along.
The gf diet has been life-changing, but so far it hasn't fixed my anemia. I've been going monthly for IV iron infusions, a two-hour treatment in a chemo ward with a nice view of Washington Square Park. I decided that this cannot be the long-term solution and that I don't want to spend any more years with a big medical shrug for an anwer regarding the cause of my anemia. The hematologist and I are certain my diet is sufficiently iron rich. So at my last appointment with my GI doc at the Celiac Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, we decided to do another endoscopy (to see if I still have villious atrophy despite a strict gf diet) and a colonoscopy to see if there is some issue with my colon (I'd had a bout of colitis in 1987 -- at least that's what was diagnosed). Those procedures happened this morning, and I'll be happy to not go through that again, especially the prep, for another 10 years. Things looked good. I will call for biopsy results in a couple of weeks. Hopefully everything will come back normal. Which will leave me to continue to sleuth out the cause of my anemia. Or just continue to deal with it until menopause and see if it resolves then.
There were a couple of highlights to the day. One is that it is an absolutely gorgeous day out, and while I can't operate heavy machinery, I did get to operate a rake and a pitchfork in the garden. Another was that, though the experience is generally unpleasant, I have a loving spouse who rearranged her schedule to look after me and drive me around. And the third, a biggy, was a post-procedure side trip to Toté Bakery & Store in the Italiam Market section of Philadelphia. Everyone should console themselves with gluten-free raisin challah warm from the oven after half a dozen medical professionals have colluded to drive a camera and other assorted equipment through the entire length of their alimentary canal after a day of no eating and an evening and night of -- ahem -- cleansing.
I went a little crazy at Toté. In addition to the challah, I got two other kinds of gf bread (quinoa and teff), an onion roll, a piece of gf carrot cake, a couple of nutrition snack bars, and a jar of their special hot sauce. I got Jenn a thank you cannoli. The nice lady who helped me assured me that the bread freezes well, which is good, since I don't really need to eat a bunch of refined carbs non-stop -- it would be contrary to my weight management strategy -- but having them on hand for the occasional treat will be nice. I spent nearly $40, which is twice as much as my co-pay. I ate at least a third of the warm challah in the car on the way home. Worth every penny.