You know how sometimes when things happen, you wish later you understood the significance of them? You didn’t recognize at the time it was going to be important. Looking back, maybe there were some things that happened in the past that might have been indicators that something was wrong. Somewhere in 2016, I just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t put my finger on it. But something was off. I would wake up with lines in my skin from the sheets. My ankles would get mildly swollen. That I would attribute to my job and the many long hours on the road—and my eating sunflower seeds to stay awake. I stopped the seeds (and therefore the salt) and the swelling went away. But I didn’t understand the lines-from-the sheets thing. That was new. It was like I was retaining water overnight. And I just felt off.
I went to my then-PCP and he ordered blood work, including a second screening test for autoimmune disease; again it was negative. We’ll circle back around to that in the future.
I can’t really pinpoint when I started feeling cold all the time but thinking back, it was probably October-ish 2019 at the latest. It’s not one of those things you pay particular attention to. But I was freezing pretty much all the time (and still am), and that is very unusual for me. I typically love cold weather and being cold but this is ridiculous. I wear layers upon layers while my boyfriend lounges in a T-shirt. “You’re not cold?” I must have asked him 100 times. And it’s hard to explain (and probably sounds really lame), but it’s like I’m cold from the inside out, so no amount of layers or blankets really help. My hands are constantly frozen. I can’t even make myself go out to put the trash out the night before pick up if it’s cold outside. I just can’t do it. It’s nearly paralyzing. I know how dramatic that sounds, but it’s really how it feels. Some days I come home from work and just go to bed because it’s the only way I can get warm (heated mattress pad, yo).
And have I mentioned the leg cramps? They had started a few years before all of this anemia stuff (put a pin in that too). These aren’t your typical leg cramps. These are the type that wake me up literally screaming and crying. I get them in my inner thigh, in my shin and calf (usually both of those at the same time), my toes, and most of the time they’re in both legs at the same time. I also get them in my thumbs and my forearms. They last 20 to 30 minutes. It’s so awful. My legs are sore for days after those damn cramps. And I’ve tried everything: magnesium, copper, pretty much every OTC medication for leg cramps (no, not pickle juice—not happening). Nothing helps. I just have to try to go zen when it happens. I don’t know for a fact that these are related to the kidney function. My mom gets bad leg cramps as well and her kidneys are just fine. But I do know that poor kidney function can be related.
Because at this time I was losing weight (intentionally), everyone was saying, “Oh you’re just cold because you’ve lost your padding.” No. I knew that wasn’t it. I had lost weight before and never felt like that. Looking back, I wish that were the reason.
And there was also the issue of having to pee slightly more often (maybe one or two times more a day) and the fact that my urine now had bubbles in it. When that started, I didn’t know that bubbles were a sign of protein in the urine. I noticed it but didn’t make note of when it started. I didn’t know it was significant. I learned that from the googles. And now you know too.