When I arrived back from travelling, I was on quite a high. Full of enthusiasm for all the things I’d do now I was home: Get down to some dedicated freelancing. Help mum with finishing the Cowshed project. Start jogging. Go see a careers advisor and perhaps look into courses to further my education. Finish off long-overdue craft projects. But as the days and weeks passed, my bounce wore off and I spent my days slumped in a chair trying unsuccessfully to force my suddenly uncooperative brain to focus on my work. Mum kept commenting on how pallid I was starting to look as my tropical suntan began to fade.
I couldn’t muster up the energy to go and attach the last couple of strips of my Bargello quilt top, let alone contemplate starting something new. The very idea wearied me, as did pretty much everything else. When the next Quilt Club rolled around, I called up Stefani and told her I wouldn’t be coming because I felt very run down. Gradually I deteriorated. My mouth was hypersensitive and full of sores, I could barely eat, I was throwing up randomly and at one point I almost collapsed. I became clumsy, knocking things over or fumbling to grasp them. My mental acuity took a hit too – I could barely string a coherent sentence together, often drifting off part-way through. Concerned, mum badgered me to go to the doctor’s. I’d been once already to ask about post-travel check-ups (got brushed off) and the annoying tendon and joint pain in my right foot (got referred). At the time I’d also mentioned the appalling mouth sores I was getting, so the doctor peered in my mouth, asked if I were vegetarian (I’m not), and muttered vaguely about perhaps some blood tests at some point. A month later, a second trip to the GP and I was grudgingly given a blood test. I went home and fell into bed exhausted, only to be awoken by the phone ringing repeatedly. The third time, I gathered the energy to answer it. It was the doctor I’d seen earlier. My haemoglobin level was 5.5, was I able to go into hospital to see a haemotologist the next day? It was quite urgent. I might need a transfusion.
You don’t really say no to something like that. So, off we went to Withybush Hospital so I could be poked and prodded and have more blood taken. By the end I was amazed I had any left. After a number of tests, the haemotologist concluded that I had pernicious anaemia (the kind that targets parietal cells) and must start a course of vitamin B12 injections immediately, which I would require for the rest of my life. Because of the mental symptoms I was showing, I was told I needed B12 injections every other day until I was either completely better or showed no further improvement. For someone who prides themselves on their mental agility and manual dexterity, it was a terrifying prognosis. I also had to start a course of iron to raise my horrendously low haemoglobin levels, which culminated in having to go into hospital for four sessions of intravenous iron drips because my iron levels weren’t responding well.
Eight months since my diagnosis and I’m a lot better now, though still having to take regular iron supplements. It seems I just can’t hang onto the damn stuff. Even though I was told that I would not need to take iron indefinitely by the haemotologist, it doesn’t feel that way right now. I have another blood test next month, so we’ll see what that brings.