Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thyroid Cancer - RAI #3 and a New Job

The weekend dragged by as I anticipated the ablation on Monday. It was my mother’s birthday. This would prove to be the second bad birthday for her. My grandfather had died on this day the year before. I felt bad. I had begun to prepare my children for this time as well. I told them that “Mommy had to take some yucky medicine that was not good for them but was good for me. Because this medicine was not good for them and being by me would allow them to get it they could not be by me for 10 days.” It broke my heart to see my little girl look at me not quite understanding why she couldn’t see me. I had gone to the dollar store earlier that week and picked up 10 gifts for each child. I wrapped each one and placed them in boxes. I told them that each day grandma would let them choose a gift and they could open it. Then they could use the gifts to count how many days there were left before they could be with mommy again. It would give them something positive to look forward to as well.

I was thankful that my mom would be able to spend the week with them while I was in isolation. It was one thing I did not have to worry about this time. My both of my children would be with someone they loved and knew. Their schedules would be the same and they would not be shipped off to someone else’s house. This was the first time for my daughter and the third time for my son but the first he would remember. My husband still did not have a job at this point so he had to keep searching and interviewing. He did have a very good prospect on the table but we were in the waiting game.

Monday, May 23rd arrived all too quickly. I remember getting into my car and placing the healing scriptures cassette in to listen to while I drove to the hospital. My favorite scripture had become Mark 16:18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. Tears rolled down my face as I claimed this scripture for my own. I knew that God was with me through this and that he had promised never to leave or forsake me. The drive to the hospital is a blur. I remember parking the car in the same ramp I had been in the day before. This time I walked through the hospital knowing where I was headed. It was my third visit to the Nuclear Medicine Department.

I arrived once again to the patient waiting area and checked in. They tagged me again with the typical hospital wristband and I was told to sit down and wait. My wait this time was longer. I had visions of the technicians drawing straws to see who would administer the RAI to me. As I sat in the chair once again staring at the events of the day on TV, I thought about how lonely this whole journey is. No one could be with me due to the exposure. No matter how much your husband and other family members love you they can never understand what it feels like to go through this over and over again. The journey into extreme hypo until your brain fogs, body aches and you just cannot function anymore is something I never would have imagined. Your body literally shuts down. The 10 days alone would be welcome to me in a way. No one would demand a thing of me. It was my time to just recover and lick my wounds once again.

No one sat with me as I waited. I just wanted it all to be over, but would it ever be over? I knew that I would never do this again. I would hit my maximum lifetime dose of 500 mCi’s of I-131. Further treatments would risk acute myeloid leukemia. This was it. But I couldn’t think of the “what ifs”. I just had to make it through today. I began to watch the people being wheeled by the windows again. I prayed for the people being treated and for myself. It was such an empty and lonely feeling. I wished someone could take it all away. I was alone and once again it was just me to fight this battle. I had to deal with this. I had to find the strength somehow to fight once again. I was tired both mentally and physically.

About 20 minutes after I arrived, a technician came to take me back to the room where I would ingest the toxic Iodine. I put a smile on my face as I always do and followed her to a room with 2 chairs and a table. On the table was a cup of water and a release form with a pen on top. It was another cold, sterile room. I was instructed to sit in one of the chairs so I did. The technician explained that she would be right back while I read the form. She showed me where to sign when I had finished.

While she was gone I read the standard blah, blah, blah of medical legal forms. I placed my signature on the bottom and waited. The technician had used the rolling chair to get the RAI just like the last time I was administered the ablation. She returned with a large cylinder again. It was about 2 feet long and 6 inches in diameter. She could not pick it up but set it upright and unscrewed the top. Inside was a prescription bottle with 4 capsules. She handed me the container and instructed me to open it and take the pills and drink all the water. I looked at the pill bottle to verify that it was for me and the correct dose. I took the pills and swallowed. She handed me the precaution sheet and told me to call the number on it if there was any problem. I asked her how she could administer the dose of this level and not be affected. She said that she had to go through some testing the next day to determine her exposure. How scary is that? I did not ask what she had to do. I just wanted to leave and start the process. I said good-bye and began my walk through the halls. I remember thinking that I was passing by all these people that had no idea that I had ingested a large dose of radioactive material. I quickly walked toward the elevators and pushed the button. As I was standing there I a couple came up to the elevators. The woman was pregnant! I decided to pretend that I had forgotten something and left the area. I did not want to be on the same elevator with her. I did not want to expose her or her baby to this horrible drug.

I returned to the area in front of the elevators when they got on and the door closed. I pushed the button again and when it arrived I stepped in. Finding the close button I pushed it to ensure that no one else had the opportunity to join me on my journey. After leaving the elevator I walked quickly to my car. As I sat down I felt the comfort of its confinement. It was familiar and felt safe. I drove out of the parking ramp and handed my validated ticket to the attendant. I couldn’t help thinking that this many had no idea what I had just gone through or what I as about to encounter but then neither did I.

I started home and on the way decided to stop at the local video store. I had brought my laptop upstairs to the bedroom where I would live for the next 10 days. I could watch DVD’s on it. I ran in to the store quickly, careful to keep my distance from others. I selected 3 DVD’s and paid for them. I left the store and started home. When I was approximately 1 mile from home I called home to tell my mother to get my daughter and take her downstairs. I did not want her to great me at the door when I was at my highest level of radioactivity.

I pulled into the garage and gathered up my videos. I stepped into the house and grabbed some water. I would begin to drink water to flush the toxin out of my body. I would have to follow the low iodine diet for another day and could start my Synthroid in 3 days. Oh how I waited for that day! I was like a junkie looking for a fix at this point. I headed upstairs to the bedroom. It was equipped with a TV and full bath. My meals would be brought to me for the next 5 days.

I did not feel bad at this point so I turned on the TV and lay on the bed. I grabbed my laptop and began posting to my friends on the e-mail groups I belong to. I told them that I had returned home and so far was doing OK. Many sent words of encouragement. I couldn’t help thinking of how much harder this would be if I couldn’t somehow connect to others like I was doing on the computer.

At 3:30 I received an e-mail from my husband. The subject was “Does this ease your tension at all???” I opened it to find that he had been offered a job to start on June 1. This was the exact day that our COBRA would be ending so we would not have to pay another $960. They offered to start his insurance on the day he was hired. What a blessing. God once again provided for our needs and I could relax and recover without worrying.