A woman holds on to a single bright star that illuminates the looming darkness around her

Watching My Hemoglobin: I Wish I Were a "10" Again!

October 25 is MDS World Awareness Day, an opportunity to commemorate and show support for those living with myelodysplastic syndromes.

Bo Derek and Dudley Moore starred in the 1979 romantic comedy "10." I never saw the movie, but I recently watched an interview on YouTube when Johnny Carson talked to Bo Derek. He asked her about all the beads she wore in her braided hair for a scene in the movie. While running down the beach in the scene, she wore a skimpy bathing suit. Yes, sir. I'm sure the men were looking at her braids.

The 10-point rating scale

I never cared for the custom of rating any person's attractiveness on a number scale of 1 to 10. The most beautiful person is a ten, like Bo Derek's character, and someone less attractive has a lower number. I'll bet I'm not the only one who thinks that's insensitive and juvenile.

I want my hemoglobin to be a "10."

I want to be a ten these days, but I'm talking about my hemoglobin. Hemoglobin (Hgb) is a sizeable iron-containing protein found in red blood. This protein is what makes 'red cells' red. Hemoglobin's job is to pick up oxygen in the lungs, carry it in the red cells, and then release oxygen into the tissues that need it, like the heart, muscles, and brain. Hemoglobin also removes carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs, where it is exhaled. 1

Normal hemoglobin ranges

Men: 14 to 18 grams per deciliter (g/dL)
Women: 12.0 to 15.5 grams per deciliter (g/dL) 2

Side effects of treatment

Why do I want my hemoglobin to be a 10 when the standard number is 12.0? Yes, 12 would be preferable, but I can skip my injections to boost my hemoglobin when it is 10 or higher. I want to skip my injections because of the uncomfortable side effects. This month after receiving my injection, I felt like someone beat me up with a two-by-four. My back hurts, and I have killer headaches, too.

Worst of all, I don't feel like myself. Other than blood cancer, I am usually active with a pep in my step. I try to move like a young skinny girl, which I'm not. Because of the side effects, walking upstairs and picking up items from the floor is painful. That's not like me.

Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)

In 2017, I was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a rare blood cancer caused by bone marrow failure. That darn MDS is responsible for my low hemoglobin. During the first four years, I was on watch and wait. I had complete blood counts (CBC) every three months and saw my oncologist for follow-up.

Two years ago, I started having a monthly CBC, and when my hemoglobin was less than ten, I took an injection. At first, my side effect was fatigue for a few days, but overall, I had more energy. Now, things are changing.

The purpose of the drug I take is to boost my hemoglobin and delay transfusions, which I understand aren't a picnic, either. I plan to talk to my oncologist about other treatment options.

My next CBC is in a few days, so before I go inside the medical clinic, I plan to sit in my car for a few minutes and pray like an Oklahoma tornado is coming. Yes, I am praying I will be a "10."

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