Speak Up! Don’t be afraid

James, 70-year-old chronic kidney disease patient with IDA

Throughout my sixties, I was aware that my body was getting older, but I was still able to keep a pretty good pace, work full-time and enjoy activities with family and friends. At 70 I started feeling extremely tired and sluggish. I chucked it up to aging and tried to ignore the fatigue. But it just didn’t go away. I am an entrepreneur and run my own real estate business. I was used to being on my feet 24/7. When the sluggishness was at its worst, I couldn’t seem to recover from what used to be a normal day’s activity. I can remember having to calculate in my head how much energy I felt I would exert before committing to certain activities or leaving the house. The fatigue was beginning to have a negative effect on my job – and, therefore, my livelihood. I stopped walking places to conserve energy and would only commit to the bare minimum of out-of-home meetings and activities. Even these modifications did not help. I began to feel very down and grew sad about my lack of energy – again, just assuming I was getting old and could no longer do the things I used to do.

I finally decided to discuss these symptoms and feelings with my doctor. He checked my blood and discovered that I was suffering from iron deficiency anemia. I was already dealing with some chronic kidney disease and I had no idea that it made me more likely to have anemia. Had I known my chronic kidney disease was a cause of this type of iron deficiency or that extreme fatigue was a common symptom of anemia, I would have definitely sought help much sooner. My doctor referred me to a hematology specialist in my area who developed a plan for me, and now I’m feeling back to my not-so-old self.

My message to anyone who has had an experience like this is to trust yourself and don’t be afraid to speak up if you think something feels “off.” You know your own body and what it is capable of. Don’t blame something like the sudden onset of extreme fatigue on age – age is just a number. You could have something more serious wrong with you, and a simple blood test is all it takes to find out. This is especially true if you have another condition like chronic kidney disease, which puts you at risk for iron deficiency anemia. Listen to your body. No one should have to suffer the terrible effects of IDA. There are lots of ways to manage your condition so talk to your doctor about them and find the plan that’s right for you.