Friday, August 30, 2013

The Last Night

Just before midnight I headed down the shore one last time until who knows when.  Although I've walked the shore late at night plenty of times before, this time it felt different because I knew this was good bye.  So I walked more slowly, taking in the dome of stars over the lake, as if they might not be there again, or I might not return.

In front of the Big Dipper, I turned my back on the lake and on the stars and walked the steps up to the yellow cottage sitting on top of the hill.  The guy from down the shore and I had planned a final hurrah my final night before heading to New York.  He had promised me to take me to the tree bar that he and his closest friends had built in the middle of the woods, somewhere mid-way through their disc golf course.

I arrived as the guy from down the shore was finishing up his fantasy football selections.  I've never been into fantasy football, but I'll admit, I have fantasized about having my wedding at the Big House (i.e. Michigan's football stadium), and walking through the tunnel onto the field, rather than down some church aisle to the front of a church.  But I didn't mention this to the guy from down the shore because guys tend to think it's odd when girls start planning their weddings when they're not even dating anyone. 

The guy from down the shore readied two lanterns, and we made our way through the thick of the woods to enjoy our final night together over a few beers at the Tree Bar.
The Tree Bar * Blue Moon beer selection inspired by the one who is new
My sister suggested the week before, "You've had to have hooked up by now."

To her surprise I answered, "No.  Actually, we haven't." 

When I mentioned to him what my sister had said, he replied, "Yeah, everyone thinks that."  The funny thing is, I would have thought it too.  In fact, I would have bet $20 on it back in January that at some point this year we would have kissed.  But we didn't, and I'm now thankful that it didn't happen, because our friendship remains intact without complication or potential weirdness.

Although one of his best friends often referred to him as my lake boyfriend, in actuality, the guy from down the shore was one of the best non-romances I've ever had.  His consistent presence in my life, amidst the chaos of mine, was a gift in helping me get through one of the hardest years I've experienced thus far. 

Dear Guy from Down the Shore, If you happen to be reading, THANK YOU!!!  for being there for me this past year.  Best of luck on your return to Italy and in life!  Hope to see you at least once a summer from here on out.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Two Thursdays Ago

Two Thursdays ago I went on a mission to recover my identity.  It was stolen in Chicago three years ago and this was my first trip back to the Windy City.

I had a physical address on the south side of Chicago - to an apartment that opened up a Comcast account under my name, and ran up a $1200 tab that eventually sent a collections agency after me.

I had to prove I've never lived in Chicago, which was actually more tricky than you'd think.  They requested utility bills from my homes in NYC and California.  But since I lived in student housing in both locations, I had zero utility bills to show proof of my Illinois-free existence.  Thankfully they cleared my record with a couple of paychecks and my moving company bill.

Still, even after setting things straight with Comcast and the collections agency, it's on my permanent record that I once lived at 4330 S. Forrestville Ave. Apt. 2, Chicago, IL 60653 even though I didn't.

Far Left, 4330 S. Forrestville Ave. Chicago, IL 60653
Since I had never lived there, I wanted to find out who had - preferably, without getting shot.  The home is between East 43rd and 44th streets.  Although the street looks nice, my friend Will later told me that even as a big, brown, Mexican dude, he won't go near the area.

But since he post warned me, rather than fore warned me, Friday, around 3, I dropped by the street to see if I might find answers to who had lived in the apartment when the Comcast account had opened.

After identifying the house, I circled the blocked and parked further down the street.  I snapped a few photos, and deliberated what to do.  With the mail lady walking door to door, the street seemed safe enough for me to exit my vehicle, so I did.

I went up to the mail lady, hoping she might somehow be able to help me out.  But legally, she couldn't.  But since she was walking up and down the street, I decided to knock on the door, thinking I'd be greeted by someone who was from apartment 1 - not the apt 2, listed on my Comcast bill. 

(* I hoped to obtain the name and phone number of the landlord from one of the other apartments, and then later on follow up the landlord to find out who was on the lease at the time the Comcast account opened up.)

I didn’t have much of a conversation game plan when I knocked.  But I did think to not say I was Katrina.  Instead, I introduced myself to the twenty-something girl who answered, by saying, “Hi. I’m Kate.” (I trusted that with my glasses on, I wouldn’t be recognized as the same girl from my California License that I’d imagined was clipped to the refrigerator in apt 2.)
I explained that I was trying to get ahold of someone who lived in the building a few years ago.  “Is this apartment 2?”  The girl informed me it wasn't an apartment building and that the entire place was one unit.  I stumbled through the remainder of our conversation. When I asked how long she had live in the home, the girl claimed it was her sister's place, and she didn't really know.

I left a note with my name - Kate - and cell phone number.  And ask the girl to have her sister give me a call. 

The mail lady was still going up and down the street.  I noticed another lady, probably in her mid-forties, was helping an old man move a few boxes into his vehicle.  From a distance, I could hear them laughing.  They seemed friendly enough to drop by for a chat, so I walked their direction and asked, "By chance, have you lived on this street for a while?"
The woman answered, "Yep. 6 years."
"Do you happen to know who lives in that home on the far end?"  I pointed. 

I explained I was trying to get in touch with someone who lived their a few years ago, and was wondering if the same person still resides there.

"Nawh, I just know the guy who lives next door to that place."

"Oh, would happen to have his number?"

"Sorry.  No, I don't."  She shook her head.

"Oh, well, would you mind passing on my name (Kate) and number on to him?"

"Sure.  I could do that."  She agreed.

Awesome, I thought, as I scribbled out my undercover name and cell phone number on a piece of paper and handed it to the nice lady.  I thought for sure, with 2 leads, I'd have the name of the man who thefted my identity by the end of the weekend.

But no such luck.  Neither party called, and I still don't know who opened a Comcast account under my name in Chicago.

But I do believe real estate records are public - somewhere - so someday, I will find the name of this individual who not only likes to watch cable, but also messed with my paypal account, and tried to change my last name with my cell phone company.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Young Me Is Still Me

They say your temperament and who you are surfaces in your early years. 

I think my pre school and kindergarten teachers could still be used as references.

Yes, I may have struggled a bit with tying my shoes at the age of four, but my preschool teacher also noted the following about me:

"Katrina is a very mature little girl.  Her skills and intelligence are very fine.  She is cheerful and cooperative.  I am glad she is in my class." 

Less than a year later my kindergarten teacher wrote another rave review.

"Katrina gets along well with others.  She is quite serious about her work, and follows directions and works nicely independently."

But the best performance evaluation ever, is the one my preschool teacher sent home to my parents' on a heart cut out of construction paper.

"Katrina was a joy today.  She smiled, talked, made a valentine, and jumped on the trampoline.  She did not cry." ~Mrs. J.

Funny, I still love trampolines, and strongly believe trampolines coupled with karaoke could lead to world peace.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Ferritin Secret Part V

Right as I was laying down to go to sleep, my cell phone rang.  It was sometime after 1 AM, and I didn't recognize the number.  I answered anyway, and I'm glad I did.

It was my acquaintance friend - a professional athlete (long jumper) and trainer - calling from Southern California.  My rock climbing friend Carlos introduced me to her this past spring, and not only is she an amazing athlete, she's also one smart chic. 

We chatted for nearly an hour as she filled me in on all that she knows about iron deficiency and ferritin levels from working in the athletic world.  She explained, what science knows about ferritin, a person's ferritin levels shouldn't matter all that much.  But, she continued, athletes in her training circles KNOW that they do, and a ferritin level below 25 will begin to negatively impact an athlete's training and performance.

Again, I was at 4.  Now at a 12.  I've done much reading that recommends women aim for a ferritin level above 50 to avoid fatigue and exhaustion.  I'd imagine at least a third of the women in the US have at one time or another experienced the negative impacts of iron deficiency.  Primarily, I think, because women in the US have been swayed to believe "milk does a body good."  But when it comes to iron absorption, an abundance of calcium in a women's diet isn't all that helpful.

Here is the update e-mail I wrote my doctor a couple of weeks ago:

Dear Dr. _______ ,
GREAT NEWS!  I started taking iron pills regularly again – 2 a day with orange juice following my work outs.  Already, I feel like a brand new person.
I didn’t realize how iron deficient I still was – as a runner - until after we spoke a couple of weeks ago.
I was struggling, wondering how I could feel like I was dying the past couple of months when my blood work registered normal.  My increasing heart palpitations and breathing issues concerned me most.  After you confirmed I wasn’t dying, I wondered if I might have an anxiety disorder, or that I might need anti-depressants to help me function better.
As it turns out, I just needed more oxygen.
After our phone conversation I sought to understand this thing called ferritin that you mentioned was in the normal range as a 12, but still on the low end of the spectrum.  My search led me to articles about running and low ferritin.  And, how really, as a runner, my ferritin levels ought to be above 20 (ideally, above 30), in order for my body and brain to function properly.  (* I found a correlation this past year that my body would also crash after participating in all day training seminars, where I was thinking A LOT.  I didn’t realize how much oxygen the brain needs for thinking, and how much I had been depriving mine.)
I had no idea ferritin levels are important as they are, and that ferritin levels drop when working out even when an athlete’s hemoglobin levels are normal.  No wonder I felt miserable.  And, especially so, last summer, and again this summer as I ran in hot, humid weather (foot strike hemolysis certainly didn’t help).  I wasn’t taking in enough iron to keep up with what I was losing.  (My mistake biggest mistake was lightening up on iron pills last summer - from 2 pills to 1- when my hemoglobin levels returned to normal.  When they registered normal again in September, I could only assume my body must be taking a hit for the hard stuff I’ve been through, rather than a lack of oxygen.  I let up on iron pills even more and started counseling.)
I also found it fascinating to learn that calcium - along with coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, and alcohol - inhibits the absorption of iron into your system.  I didn’t realize the iron in my cereal was being compromised by the milk I poured on top of it.  Or, drinking soda with my Shake Shack burger would minimize the amount of iron my body would receive.  Although vitamin C helps, I’m now careful to find orange juice that isn’t fortified with calcium to take with my iron pills right after my work outs.
I suspect and am concerned that many women are unknowingly starving their bodies of oxygen and facing headaches, fatigue, depression, and miscarriages all because the normal ferritin level for women has been set too low by the medical community.
I’m confused why the University of Michigan sets the minimum for ferritin at 6, the lab in New York at 10, and Health Wise/Web MD sets the level at 18.  Unfortunately the impact of low ferritin in women appears to be under researched.  I’m now on a mission to find scholarly support to write an article that I hope will help other women be more aware of the importance of their ferritin level.
One thing is for sure, LIFE is soooooo much better with OXYGEN!  J 

Thanks again for helping me in my journey to find answers to what has been going on with my body.  I know you recognized all my symptoms to be reflective of iron deficiency, I was just confused how I could still feel so miserable when I was no longer anemic.  Thanks for being patient with me on my last visit to see you.  Seriously, I’m super thankful to have a doctor who takes time with his patients.


Katrina Blank

 A few of the more notable articles I found:

Article on by Dr. Melanie Schorr, MD
Medical School at John Hopkins
Residency at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston
Division 1 all American runner at Dartmouth College

Research Study
Effect of iron supplementation of fatigue in nonanemic menstruating women with low ferritin

More on running and low ferritin

What is ‘normal’?

For the average person, normal ferritin levels are quantified as 12-300 nanograms per milliter (ng/ml) for men and 12-150 ng/ml for women. To put it bluntly, an athlete running with a 12 ng/ml ferritin level will be feeling the effects of anemia and their training will be suffering. Runners need to be much higher on that scale.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Ferritin Secret Part IV

Towards the beginning of my book I write:

It’s funny, sad, and scary to me what we readily accept as truth.  I didn’t own a pair of flip flops until I was twenty-one because my mom convinced me early on in life that flip flops are dangerous.  She told me I would stub my toe if I wore them; I believed her and didn’t pester her for a pair, but I’ll admit, I was a bit jealous of my friends who owned several pairs.  I especially liked the neat-o flopping noise the shoes made.  All I had was a lousy pair of jelly shoes - which produced no noise - only sweat - and left strange imprints on my feet when I took them off at night.
My senior year of college I got a little wild on Spring Break and picked up a pair of flip flops at an Old Navy in Fort Lauderdale.  I think my mom was more disturbed by the flip flops than she was by the nose ring I also acquired while vacationing in Florida.  But I’ve learned that my mom is wrong about flip flops; I’ve been flopping for over ten years now and I have never stubbed a toe while wearing a pair.  To think, all those years I missed out on as a kid - I might need counseling.  And as I talk to my therapist I’ll tell her not only do I feel cheated by my mom, but by our educational system as well.
You see, when I was in fourth grade I made a model of the solar system for the school science fair.  I included the nine planets I had been learning about in class – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus (the planet the boys always laugh about), Neptune, and Pluto.  For over 75 years teachers and science books insisted Pluto is the ninth planet in the Solar System.  But suddenly, in 2006, astronomers declared it was no longer a planet, and I was a bit perturbed.  As it turns out, Pluto is nothing more than a “dwarf planet” – whatever that means.  All I know is that the science community has been lying to little kids for years, and I can’t help but wonder how Walt Disney would feel knowing Mickey’s dog – named in honor of the planet’s discovery - is a phony.
The lies I have believed about flips flops and Pluto make me wonder: if my well-intentioned parents sometimes say things that are not true, if science sometimes teaches what is not true, then maybe, just maybe, people who appear to know a bit about Jesus sometimes fall short in presenting what is true. 

* Excerpt from I Hate Books on Christian Dating - A Memoir Journey Towards a Mysterious God

What's fascinating is that as I've wrestled with what I've been told and taught about the Christian faith, I've also been wrestling with what the medical world has been teaching women about their bodies.

The claim by science is that a woman's iron stores (i.e. her ferritin level) isn't all that important.  Yet, iron is needed for transmitting oxygen throughout the body, and women lose iron each month as they menstruate.  Unless a woman's hemoglobin levels drop, she won't be told she is iron deficient.  But I know from personal experience, a woman's hemoglobin levels can read normal and she can still be iron deficient.

The most prominent signs of iron deficiency:

signs of depression

When it gets really bad, like it did with me, iron deficiency also leads to heart palpitations and breathing issues.

As I wrote a friend, "Perhaps all these women going gluten free to feel healthy just need iron pills, rather than a radical change in diet (with the exception of those with celiac disease, of course).  Iron deficiency causes headaches, fatigue, weakness, and signs of depression.  Hmmm... perhaps some women could use more oxygen rather than migraine medicine and anti depressants."

I promised I'd let up on Ferritin posts, but I have one left - the note I shared with my doctor.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Ferritin Secret Part III

The Ferritin THEORY

Early on in life I learned never to put a plastic bag over my head.  I'm not sure who taught me - probably my parents - but I grew up knowing it is dangerous to put a plastic bag over your face.  Again, I'm not sure who told me what, but I was well aware a plastic bag can prevent me from getting the oxygen my body needs.

What I didn't know, and what the medical world doesn't seem to understand, is low ferritin levels - especially in women - can have a similar effect as placing a plastic bag over your head.  An obstruction is present, blocking the way for you to receive the oxygen you need into your system.

What's tragic is many women are unknowingly starving their bodies of oxygen because the medical community decided some time ago ferritin levels aren't all that important (as long as your hemoglobin level is good) AND that women don't need blood work done as a part of their annual physical.  As a result many child bearing age women have unexplained fatigue, headaches, misdiagnosed depression and anxiety disorders, and miscarriages - all because their ferritin levels (iron stores) are far too low for what their bodies need to function properly.  Women are literally suffocating, but since the medical world insists they are okay, women can only assume the negative effects they are experiencing are simply a part of life.

Men, please keep reading.  If your wife isn't getting the oxygen she needs, she will also be too exhausted to have sex with you.  Really, this is important information for everyone.  Low ferritin levels also impact men as well as children and unborn babies.  But female athletes are most at risk.

Again, this is THEORY - one that I'm still researching.  But my hypothesis is, the medical world is setting the normal range for ferritin levels far too low for women, and especially for athletes.  Granted, I think HealthWise (quoted by web MD and Wikipedia), is on the right track with a base level of 18.  But the medical world varies in their claim of what is healthy.  For instance, my lab in New York says 10, while the University of Michigan sets the minimum at 6.

So why did I feel like I was dying when my ferritin level - a 12 - fell within my lab's normal range?

(Part IV: My Ferritin Story - then back to "normal" posts, I promise.)