I am thrilled to share some good news. After a week of testing—including 18 days on the low iodine diet, two Thyrogen injections, and an I-123 whole body scan, my radiation oncologist called me with the results. The scan showed no evidence of a thyroid cancer recurrence or metastasis. What a relief that was to hear! While waiting for the results to come in, my mind raced and wandered to every possible scenario. I had resigned myself to the fact that I may have to finally do a full course of I-131—a radioactive iodine treatment that would keep me in complete isolation for a prolonged period of time and force me to cover everything in my apartment. Needless to say, this was an unappealing scenario. But, if I had to do it, I would have.
This whole experience—the months of routine testing, followed by seeing a radiation oncologist, and finally getting this test scheduled and complete—was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was even harder than the initial cancer diagnosis and surgery in 2013. For starters, I had no idea what to expect. There were various support groups that I joined and I would read everyone’s questions and answers. Sometimes it helped me put the scan in perspective, other times it scared me, and then there were the times where I felt confused because I had received different advice from my medical team. Overall, it was helpful to be part of those groups, as I didn’t feel like I was going through this alone. There were other people who had the same questions and fears as I did.
One of the most frustrating things during this whole ordeal was getting numerous different answers in relation to the low iodine diet, what kind of radioactive iodine I would receive, and what the schedule for the testing would look like. In the end, I listened to everything I was being told, but if it didn’t sound feasible or safe for me to do, I trusted my instincts. I do believe I followed the low iodine diet as best as I could, but after the first week where I nearly passed out, I decided that I would need to make modifications if I didn’t want to end up hospitalized.
Last week tested every fiber of my being. I knew it would be hard to keep calm and not anticipate things before they happened. Happily, I had no serious side effects after the two days of Thyrogen injections, other than feeling very tired. I had been concerned that I would feel too weak to drive, but that was not an issue.
Before the week began, I thought that I had planned for every possible scenario. I stocked my fridge with extra meals, prepared meals in advance, and got enough bottled water to last me through the winter.
Then the unexpected came.
The evening before my whole body scan, which was scheduled for 9:30 am the next morning, I decided to run out to Rite Aid. I pulled out of my driveway and my low tire pressure indicator light came on. Not only was this bad timing, but it was also the same tire that just two months ago had to be patched. Of course, I immediately thought the patch had failed and I would need to replace the tire. As if I wasn’t already nervous about the scan itself, I now had to factor in going to a local tire place to fix my tire before I could even drive to the hospital. I called AAA to put on my spare tire that night and went to bed with more nervous agitation than I would have liked.
The next morning, I hurried to get ready and head up to Mavis Discount Tire when they opened at 8 am. Thankfully, they took pity on my situation, and serviced my car before the person who had arrived before me. I was so incredibly grateful that they got me in and out in 30 minutes. Curiously, the initial patch was intact. The same tire struck a screw that got imbedded into it. The mechanic put a second patch on and the tire was as good as new. Even though the whole experience was deflating, I was on my way (thanks again, Mavis!).
I headed up to the hospital, arriving right at 9:30 am. I had to go to admitting before checking-in with the nuclear medicine department at 10 am. Fortunately, that all went smoothly and by 10 am I was sitting down to take my two I-123 capsules before spending the next four to five hours waiting for my whole body scan.
To be on the safe side, I waited two hours after eating breakfast to take the I-123 pills and another two hours after taking the pills before eating lunch. I had grilled some chicken in the morning and took it with me to the hospital. I was still on the low iodine diet, so grabbing a bite to eat in the cafeteria was out and I was hesitant to drive anywhere after taking the pills.
During my wait, I found a secluded space in the hospital and read for hours. When I finished what I had brought to read, I listened to a podcast hosted by Elizabeth Gilbert and scrolled through Instagram. Before I knew it, it was time to head back to nuclear medicine and prepare for the scan.
I had been the most nervous about swallowing the I-123 pills and any possible reaction, but the real test was whether I could make it through the scan without having an anxiety attack.
Stay tuned for the rest of this story…