I was slowly and silently dying but did not have a clue that I was within an inch of losing my life. Heart failure was a click away. I was feeling run-down and exhausted, frightened because of heart palpitations, shortness of breath, foggy thinking and at night suffering with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). I had the constant urge to "eat" ice despite the fact that I was always freezing and couldn't get warm.
Eventually I concluded that my symptoms were caused by drinking too much iced tea – up to six glasses a day. I wondered if it could be the caffeine causing my symptoms and decided to kick the habit. But as soon as I stopped consuming caffeine it was like hitting a brick wall. I totally crashed. Caffeine had been the only thing keeping me going! (Later, I would learn that although the caffeine was combating my fatigue, the tannin in the tea -- also found in coffee -- was totally blocking my absorption of iron. The tea had been creating a vicious cycle!) After four days on the sofa, nearly lifeless, lacking the energy to even brush my hair or care for my two boys, my husband took action. He carried me to the doctor. My hemoglobin was 6...less than half the normal range of 12-14. My blood cells, which should have been plump and full of oxygen, were shriveled like deflated life preservers and there were a lot fewer of them than there should have been.
After an immediate series of iron infusions, I eventually was able to get back on my feet. But while sitting in that infusion lab each day for a week, I vowed to learn more about my condition. I started researching and talking about anemia with anyone who would listen. I was shocked to learn that I wasn't the only woman in the dark about this deadly disorder. With help from the Iron Disorders Institute (IDI), I learned that with simple changes in my diet and occasional iron supplementation with the right oral iron supplement, I could take control and do a better job of maintaining my iron health.
As a daughter, wife and mother, I want other women to know the dangers of anemia and seek help before it's too late. As a former Miss South Carolina, I realize the power of having a public platform and sharing my story to help raise awareness. As the founder of Get Your Iron Up, I’m honored to help advance IDI’s vision that “no one should suffer or die prematurely because of Iron-Out-of-Balance™.” As the Iron Queen, as I've now become known, I am grateful to be making a difference one life at a time.
Certified Iron Educator (CIE) | Iron Disorders Institute
Board Member, Iron Disorders Institute
Founder, Get Your Iron Up