On Thursday, my whole body scan was scheduled for 3 pm. After taking the I-123 pills and hunkering down for five hours, I returned to the nuclear medicine department at 2:45 pm. A nurse brought me in the back to prepare me for the scan. She first took images of my neck with a special camera to see how much radioactive iodine had been taken up in the area. Then, she brought me to where the whole body scan was going to take place. I was able to keep my clothes and shoes on during the scan and the nurse covered me with a protective shield that wrapped around my lower chest and waist and put a blanket over me.
The whole body scan took a little over an hour to complete—much longer than I anticipated. The first 20 minutes of the scan was spent with a plate that came a little too close to my face for comfort. It hovered directly over my face and neck for most of the test, before moving on and scanning my chest. I tried to keep my eyes closed once the panel began getting closer to my face, but I felt like I had to look to see how much distance separated us. I immediately began to panic. I tried to calm my racing heart by thinking about my meditation practices and focusing on my breathing. That worked for a little while, but after about ten minutes of remaining absolutely still, I began to get antsy.
Once the 20 minutes were up, I was allowed to sit up and stretch, but I couldn’t get off of the elevated table. The next part of the scan was 45 minutes long and involved two panels that would rotate around my head and neck. After the first part of the test, I was not looking forward to remaining still for that long and having two panels in front of my face.
The scan began and the first panel lingered directly over my face before moving incrementally to the right. This continued until a panel appeared at the left side of my face and began to move clockwise. Fortunately, both panels never covered my face at the same time, so I could at least see some part of the room and didn’t feel too claustrophobic.
After the two panels got through scanning my neck, there was a one-minute whole body scan where I was slid through a disk. I could not have been happier to see the radiology technician walk into the room and tell me that the scan was over. I joyfully jumped off the table, gathered my belongings, and breathed a big sigh of relief that I had made it through the whole body scan sans anxiety attack.
The day after the whole body scan, Friday, I was scheduled for a PET/CT with radioactive glucose. On Thursday, while undergoing the whole body scan, I began prepping for the next test by eating a high protein meal and eliminating sugar from my diet. So, I was less than pleased to find out at 5 pm on Thursday that insurance had denied my PET/CT and they had also denied my doctors appeal for the test. I was informed that the second scan would need to be rescheduled and that another two Thyrogen injections (which are incredibly expensive) would be required. I was upset that the test had been cancelled at the last minute and that my insurance company had denied something that my radiation oncologist had felt was necessary to do.
I spent most of the day on Friday in bed and made sure to stay hydrated. My body had been through a lot with the diet and all of the medicine that had been ingested for the scan, so I thought it was only fair to let it rest. I remained indoors all weekend and slept when I needed to, which was most of the day.
I am so grateful to everyone who called, texted, visited, commented on my blog and social media, and kept up with my stories on Instagram. It was amazing to know that I had people near and far who kept me in their prayers and were my biggest cheerleaders throughout this ordeal. The LID Life Community on Facebook deserves a lot of praise for the diligent work they have done and continue to do to help patients like myself know what to eat on the low iodine diet. They were an amazing resource to be able to refer to. And, of course, my team of doctors and nurses who endured countless questions and concerns from me via in person and over the phone—I am grateful for their expertise and patience.
I know that many people have gone through thyroid cancer, the low iodine diet, whole body scans, and radioactive iodine and they don’t always get the great news that I received last week. This whole experience has completely changed me—it has altered the way I eat and look at food and how I take care of myself moving forward. I am determined to make better dietary decisions for my body and practice more self-love—even on those days where I am dead tired and feeling lazy. My body has worked incredibly hard for me over the years, and it is time that I return the favor by giving it the proper nutrition it needs. If I could leave you with one last thought after this experience, it would be that your health is your wealth. Sadly, I only took that saying to heart when I was faced with losing my health (again), but I hope that you will remember this as you go through your own life journey.
Kathrine Eldridge says
Thanks for sharing all of this. It will help many. It frustrates me about the denial from your insurance. The system is a mess and I hope it get fixed in the near future. The best part of this is that you are healthy. Yay! Don’t beat yourself up about taking your body for granted. It happens to all of us and through this experience you’ve grown stronger and helped others in the process. So happy you can celebrate the season in peace. XO
Vanessa Steil says
Thank you so much, Kathrine! I am upset about the insurance denial, too—especially since it was denied at the very last minute. It just doesn’t seem right that an insurance company has the final say over your treatment and health. I’m looking forward to taking in every minute of this holiday season and really living it up!