I’m tired about talking about fatigue. For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with my energy levels. But let’s remember I’m 48 (but best not to use the aging card as this kind of fatigue doesn’t brew with time), and I’ve most likely been positive since I’ve been 17 or 18-years old.
Back then I partied a lot, did a lot of weekend drugs that kept me up all night. Hence I attributed my fatigue to my end of week activities. However when I stopped, I wasn’t really feeling that much more energetic.
Then last year, beginning in August, I was getting run down, and constantly getting colds. I was attributing this to going out and doing stand up. I was not in great condition to travel and hence even in a month in Tel Aviv I was still not able to do a lot. I knew after this trip it was time to work on my health issues because if this is the way things are going to be, I might as well throw in the towel and never leave Toronto. (Kill me now)
There seems to be this idea that fatigue is fatigue and there is nothing that can be done about it. For several years I shrugged my shoulders and thought this is how I’m going to spend my life. I ask my doc about it and I get a shrug of the shoulders. His latest suggestion is it's psychological and not physiological.
And yet, my blood work suggests that something is up with my red blood cell count. It is low. My guess is that it is not low enough to worry the doc, but is enough for my naturopath, whom I trust whole-heartedly, to suggest that I am ianemic. Talk to my doc and say the word" anemic" and he pipes up and starts asking ,Who told you you were anemic? How did you get that idea?”
I’ve come to realize working with my naturopath (who by the way isn’t anti-medicine, anti-medication or has an agenda) that I have to take care of these issues. I can only depend on medicine to do so much for me, and that’s not enough when it comes to the impact of living with HIV.
On my own I decided to get blood work done to check my iron and B12 levels. I had been taking supplements for quite sometime and did feel some improvement. It turns out they are OK.
At the end of the day it’s a bit of a mystery. Fatigue is hard to pin down because there are so many causes for it. Fortunately I am not viremic (meaning I'm undetectable).
My next part of the fatigue journey is going off of some of the meds I’ve been talking that are not related to HIV. For example, I’ve been on anti-depressants and their side effects for 20 years. I want to know if these have an effect on my energy. I also take sleeping pills and junk to sleep. Is there any interaction? There is only one way to find out.
The detective work continues. I’ve also lost my appetite, which is great because I’ve completely lost the “AIDS” stomach that I absolutely hated. I’m getting back to the gym. I love being skinny again, but there comes a certain point where I've had enough weight loss.
My energy quest hasn’t been totally futile. I do have more stamina tant I’ve had in quite some time. It looks like this is going to be a multi-pronged approach from diet, to medications, to low RBC.
The point is, if you are not feeling great don’t just accept it. When there are no answers keep looking.
As for my naturopath, when I have lung issues (I’m asthmatic) I go to him now instead of the hospital. He’s been great for managing colds and targeting fatigue as an issue. I tend only to see my medical doc for blood work and more administrative kind of stuff.
It would be nice if the medical community would focus not just on lab numbers but look at our real lives and real needs. How can we have quality of life when relegated to a TV couch for the rest of our lives?
And that is why I’m going back to Tel Aviv, but for three months this time. You might be able to keep me down for a few weeks, but try three months!