For those of you just joining us, please go back and read the beginning of the series. For the rest of you, let me catch you all back up to speed. Remember in my last post, I took you back in time to explain how and when I developed Fatty Liver Disease (FLD). My story picks back up where I left off as a fat and happy guy in my late 40's. Knowing that my liver enzymes were affected by my diet and health, I continued to monitor those numbers with regular blood tests over the years. Since I knew I could control the health of my liver, I didn't think too much about the stress I was putting on this important organ until I had a conversation with my friend (and functional medical practitioner) about my liver enzymes.
I AM IRON MAN
This doctor had been concerned about my health ever since my initial FLD diagnosis and asked if I would have an extended liver panel and more blood tests completed. He seemed to be very interested in my iron levels and how those could be affecting my liver. I took the blood test and sure enough, my iron levels were through the roof:
My liver enzymes were also high again, but that wasn't what concerned him. He actually phoned me at home with the results in his hand and told me that it was time for me to see another doctor. Not only were my liver enzymes spilling into my blood stream, but my iron levels had sky-rocketed. He explained that high iron (elevated Ferritin) could lead to increased risks of cancer and that having this treated was very important and that quickly landed me in the office of an oncologist/hematologist.
"YOU NEED A PERIOD!"
I met a wonderful older Chinese physician who spoke very broken English. He was also concerned about the ferritin levels and began a series of blood tests to see if I had a genetic condition called hemachromatosis to explain why my body did not break down the iron like normal. That test came back negative and I do not remember any radioactive spider bites that would have led to my superhero status, so I was given the same basic diagnosis for an unhealthy liver.
I'll never forget what this funny little doctor said next, "Mr. Fletcher, you need a period!" It was as funny then as it is now (remember he said it with very broken English). At the time, I reminded him that I lacked the appropriate female plumbing and hormones and questioned his treatment plan. He went onto explain that the only way to lower my iron was to lose blood regularly (similar to menstruation).
BLOOD-LETTING AND LEACHES
When describing their doctors, plenty of patients will us the phrase: "old school." That is exactly how I felt when this guy recommended monthly blood donations, because it sounded eerily similar to medieval blood-lettings and leach treatments. Have a headache? Throw on a few leaches. Suffering from painful joints? Give a few pints of blood. If you have seen Steve Martin's rendition of Theodoric of York from Saturday Night Live, this is exactly what I pictured.
Regardless, this was the treatment recommended and off I went to our local blood donation center for regular blood donations. They only allow donations once every eight weeks, so I became very routine in my donation cycle and I would follow-up with blood tests to look at my ferritin level. After just one donation, I was pleased to see that my ferritin levels dropped in half!
I had simultaneously decided that lowering my carbohydrate input was a good idea, so my liver enzymes responded as well. It was definitely a wake-up call. Clearly I had a liver that was stressed and showing signs of disease.
If only I had been more forward thinking and considered my body "as a whole." I believe that at this point in my life I could have prevented my Type 2 diabetes diagnosis all together. Unfortunately, I was still unwilling to take things seriously. My attitude and lifestyle was way more attractive.
In my next post, I will talk about the effect my lifestyle choices and weight was having on my cardiovascular system.
Quietly making noise,