Saturday, March 17, 2007

Thyroid Cancer - The Whole Body Scan 3 Days Before Ablation

My Naturopath worked with me to build up my body prior to the RAI treatment. At one point I was taking 54 vitamins per day. I felt pretty well all things considering. Then I hit a brick wall and called my doctor asking if we could test my levels early. It was only 4 weeks after going off my medication but he agreed. The levels came back and my TSH was 80.73. I went hypo very quickly! This was May 12th, 2005. I would not speak to my doctor through this entire process. After they got the test results the doctor’s office scheduled the RAI scan and ablation and called me with the dates. The scan was set for May 19th and the ablation for May 23rd.

I had researched for 5 years by this point and was beginning to be a doctor’s worst nightmare. I questioned everything! I had an unsettled feeling about this. My biggest objection was over the TSH level. My TSH had risen from suppressed in August of the previous year to .92. When the TSH is suppressed the thyroglobulin levels are lower. I would later ask the nurse about this and be told that the correlation between TSH & Tg is non-existent. I wanted to get my TSH suppressed and then run the Tg but my doctor would not let me do it. He just kept scaring me with the spreading cancer concept.

I went for my scan on May 18th. It was the third hospital I would go to for this procedure. Each doctor had their favorite. There are only 4 hospitals in my city. This hospital is the largest one in my city and the hardest to find things in. I parked in the ramp across the street and walked across the cross walk. I remember thinking that this should not faze me because I had done this on 2 other occasions but it did.

I checked in at the desk in the nuclear medicine department and sat down to wait for the technician to come and take me back. A national news channel played in the waiting area. I stared at the screen while my mind ran wild. The room was surrounded by windows so I watched as patients were wheeled by. Because this is nuclear medicine, it is the hot spot for cancer patients. The people I saw were obviously enduring massive amounts of toxic chemical treatments with radiation poisoning. They were pale in color and frail looking. I shook inside knowing that in a few days I would experience the poison again for myself and my stomach had a sick feeling.

I waited about 15 minutes and then the technician took me back. She checked the tag on my wrist to make sure I was who she thought I was and then proceeded to push a chair outside the room and down the hall. She returned moments later with a large metal cylinder which contained the scanning dose of I-123 that I was to ingest for the next days scan. I took the pill and left. I would return in 24 hours.

The next day I returned and checked into the Nuclear Med department again. I made small talk with the people around me. One person finally asked why I was there. I told her that it was for a scan to determine the dose of radioactive iodine I would receive. She asked for my doctor’s name and I told her. She said that she had the same doctor and found him to be egotistical and did not listen to her. Great, this is just what you want to hear as you are approaching an ablation dose. I was called soon after and taken back to the scanning room.

The technician led me down the hall and as we walked she started to explain what would happen. I stopped her and told her I knew the drill. This was the fifth full body scan since being diagnosed. I was instructed to lay down on the flat cold metal and plastic table. It is narrow in width – maybe two feet wide. There is a pillow for my head. This hospital was one of the most “patient friendly” I had experienced. The scan takes ½ hour and is in a cool room because of the machines. She offered to get some warm blankets for me. I eagerly accepted. She put a relaxation CD on and dimmed the lights. I was told to lay flat and not move. While the machine was over my head & neck I should not swallow if possible. That’s like telling someone to try to not think of a bear. All you do is think of a bear. But again I knew this was what was expected so I was prepared. I spent my time thinking and praying to God for his protection on my body from the radiation. I prayed that the scan would somehow be negative and that the treatment would be called off because I had been healed. I asked to see the image on the screen and she showed me what had happened. There was nothing that "lit" up - not anywhere. I thought "OH good!!! There isn't anything to ablate". My doctor would not think this way though. I was taken to another room to do the "Uptake measurement". This tells them how much of the RAI your body took in. They place a measurement device on your knee becuase this is a good baseline reference. Then they put the machine at your neck. My uptake was only .3%. This is VERY low and signified that I was what they call "Iodine Resistant". Then the scan was over and I was free to go home for a few days. I would await the call from my doctor’s office to tell me what dose had been chosen.

My scan had been done on Thursday and on Friday the 20th I received a call from my endocrinologist’s office to let me know that we were all set for Monday’s ablation. I asked the nurse what dose my Dr had chosen to give me. She said 250 mCi’s. I asked why. She said “He wouldn’t have ordered it if he didn’t feel it was necessary.” I asked if I could talk to him and I was told “No” that there was nothing for me to discuss with him. I asked her if she understood what I was about to go through. She brushed it all off and discounted my fears. I ended up in tears. I told her that this process was so hard and scary. She apologized for making lightly of the situation but her voice did not reflect sincerity. I wanted to call it off right then and there. But what would I do instead? I had no plan. I had no one to help me. When I asked my ND what he thought he said he didn’t know. He told me that he would be there to help me prepare for it by strengthening my body and then afterward to restore my health. The dosage scared me. It was the same amount as my first two ablations combined.

My Final Post ..... The Ending of a Journey

It is a very strange feeling to be writing this post.  It will be the last update that I post to this blog.  The blog itself will remain up ...