So a funny thing happened today, but to tell the funny story, first, we need to talk about blood.
Anemia, Hemoglobin, and What Levels Mean
Your blood contains 3 different parts. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. White blood cells are basically your immune system. Platelets are the things that cause blood clots (which is a good thing).
Red blood cells carry oxygen to your various body parts. This is an extremely important task, seeing as without oxygen, your body basically stops working.
Anemia is when your red blood cells are low. This can be for a number of different reasons. If you’ve heard that people were anemic, you probably heard they were iron deficient. Lack of B12 does it too. Some infections, blood disorders, and other things can also cause it.
The main initial symptom of Leukemia is anemia.
So anyway, the normal levels for hemoglobin in an adult male should range from 15 to 18. Get any lower than that, and you suffer from dizziness, light headedness, exhaustion, disorientation, and so on.
Before I was diagnosed, I was training for a triathlon. The day after I got my initial diagnosis, I was actually supposed to run a sprint distance triathlon, as a practice run for my olympic triathlon on June 8th. I had been planning on running the NYC Triathlon for Autism Speaks.
As my symptoms got worse, my sister eventually convinced me to get my blood work drawn up the week of my triathlon. The night before my blood work test, I rode my bike ~14 miles. It was at least partially to reassure myself that I was probably fine.
Little did I know…
The Blood Test Results
The first set of blood tests, I didn’t hear the results. The doctor called me, and asked me a bunch of questions. Did I walk myself into the blood facility. Was I feeling faint. Was I walking around, could I get up stairs….a few others. At the end of the barrage of questions, he said “Ok, well, then these results have to be an error. I need you to come back in tomorrow morning and get retested”.
The second set of blood tests revealed that the anemia was no mistake, and additionally, my hemoglobin was 5. That’s 1/3 the level it should be. It should be cripplingly low, preventing me from being able to do anything. Queue every single doctor from that moment on asking me if I walked into their office on my own, and if I needed to be wheel chaired out.
The Legend Redux
My roommate had an accident this afternoon, so I had to get out of the room and get some air. I ended up in the lounge with a few other patients. We all just kind of quietly acknowledged one another, and watched some golf. My mom came by with a sandwich, so I ate, relaxed. Then I went back to my room, and my mom stayed in the lounge for a bit. One of the patients started talking to her, asking about me. She asked if he was “the athlete” that my doctor had told me about. He said yes, and then asked if I was an athlete, if I liked golf. She said “No, but he was training for a triathlon before the diagnosis”. She said he got a weird look on his face, and quietly asked:
“Is he the one that rode 14 miles on his bike on a Tuesday, and got diagnosed on Friday?”
Yeah, that’s right. I’m that dude. Legen-wait-for-it-and-hope-you’re-not-lactose-intolerant-DARY.