Hemochromatosis Awareness Month 2021 Hémochromatose: mois de la sensibilisation 2021


En français
In partnership with Canadian Blood Services En partenariat avec Société canadienne du sang

What is hemochromatosis?

Hereditary hemochromatosis, or iron overload, is a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 300 Canadians, primarily of Northern European or Celtic descent. It’s the result of the body absorbing and retaining too much dietary iron, which can lead to serious health conditions like heart disease, liver disease and diabetes. Are you at risk? Use our self assessment tool.

Stay informed

Our regular e-newsletter shares the latest news and research on hemochromatosis, plus stories from Canadians affected by the disorder, and events happening in your region. Sign-up here.


Contributing Artists to the 2021 Postcard Campaign

Sets of 5 postcards will be sent to all on our mailing list in May so that they can mail them onto their friends and family to spread awareness and keep in touch (especially important during this pandemic)! Let us know if you want to be a part of the campaign, and we can add you to the mailing list to receive a set of postcards.  Contact us by emailing office@toomuchiron.ca.

The following members have generously provided their creative works for this year’s campaign.

Ian Patrick McAllister

Ian Patrick McAllister is a multidisciplinary artist and curator who graduated from Ontario College of Art. His current paintings are an exploration of how Hereditary Hemochromatosis has impacted his life, by exploring the use of rust and reactive stains as materials to make art. Ian is also a longtime participant with the International Union of Mail Artists (IUOMA) which is an organized group of artists that exchange art via the postal system.

Ian Patrick who was the first of his family on the McAllister side (Scottish) and on his Irish mother’s side to be diagnosed with hereditary hemochromatosis. Ian Patrick contributed not only his graphic design and layout skills for this postcard campaign, but he also contributed his painting of a “Small Black Hill” done during a day trip in Labrador. Within this small mound, overgrown with grass, is a lump of iron, symbolizing how iron is essential to life and yet, even in great quantities, can be overcome.


Barry J. McAllister

Barry has been a professional artist since  youth, with an interest in both sports and nature photography. Barry’s endeavours into photography began with a fascination for capturing the moment and the fascination of working in the darkroom for the development process. His discipline with analog photography has given him the versatility to further explore digital photography. Barry is also an avid collector of antique and curio cameras.

Barry is the father of Ian Patrick and has been very supportive of Ian’s desire to spread awareness of hereditary hemochromatosis.


Photo of Elizabeth Minish

Elizabeth Minish

Elizabeth Minish is a long-time volunteer and Past President of the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society. Her father had hereditary hemochromatosis and she is a compound heterozygote herself.

With this May Awareness Month postcard campaign, she is able to combine her love of photography and gardening with  her on-going support of the Society.


Marilyn Kelm

Marilyn’s journey as an artist started when her nursing career ended. She entered Fraser Valley University’s Fine Arts Program, and never looked back. Although she was in her late forties, she followed the motto, “better late then never”!  Over the years, her work has made it onto other people’s walls which gives her a sense of satisfaction.

She thanks her daughter for discovering her hemochromatosis. It took her daughter 6 years of feeling tired and being checked for low iron to realize her ferritin and hemoglobin were going up and finally getting diagnosed. At that time, Marilyn’s ferritin was 1000 ng/mL. That was 10 years ago and now everything is stable. Both suffer from  arthritis in their fingers and toes which they attribute to hemochromatosis.


What are the symptoms of hemochromatosis?

Many early symptoms of hemochromatosis often go unnoticed, which makes it difficult to diagnose the condition until irreversible damage has occurred. The most common symptoms associated with hemochromatosis are:

  • chronic fatigue
  • joint pain
  • arthritis, especially of the knuckles of the first and second finger, and thumb
  • change in skin colour, either bronzing like a tan that never fades or a slate gray
  • abdominal pain
  • menstrual irregularities

Learn more about common symptoms here.

How is hemochromatosis tested and diagnosed?

Early diagnosis is critical to prevent irreversible damage and premature death. A simple blood test ordered by your doctor will reveal the amount of iron in your body. Abnormally high iron levels may signal hemochromatosis. Learn more.

How does hemochromatosis affect family members?

If an individual’s genetic test confirms the presence of genetic mutations that cause hemochromatosis, it’s critical for family members to also be tested. First-degree relatives (parents, siblings, and children) are at risk of being carriers of the HFE gene. Learn more.

How is hemochromatosis treated?

The most effective treatment for hemochromatosis is phlebotomy therapy, also called de-ironing. The procedure involves removing excess iron from the body by drawing off a unit of blood using the same technique as a blood donation. Learn more.

Can individuals with hemochromatosis donate blood?

People with hemochromatosis can donate blood, providing they meet all other Canadian Blood Services donor eligibility criteria. Once de-ironed, people with hemochromatosis can maintain their iron levels by treating themselves while helping others through a blood donation. Book an appointment to donate blood at Canadian Blood Services today! Or book an appointment with Héma-Québec in the province of Québec!