I-131, Day One

Got up this morning, ate no breakfast, and headed off to the nuclear medicine people for my I-123 scan and dosing of I-131. No breakfast because the I-131 has to be done on an empty stomach (no food four hours before or two hours afterwards).

The first scan, of the whole body, was fine, if a little dull. You have hold more or less still, and by the end of the first scan my lower back and butt were a bit stiff. I kept my eyes closed for the second scan, because that’s the one for just my neck and I would have been staring at a large piece of medical equipment. The sides are open, however, which kept me from having a claustrophobic moment. Another scan, this one more like the X-rays they have at the dentist’s, and it was Radiation Time!

Well, almost. The physician came in and explained to me about the radiation, about my specific kind of thyroid cancer. Apparently the presence of hurthle cells raises my risk of recurrence slightly. He asked how they found my cancer, and I explained that it was my physician at the campus student health center, as I am a grad student. Then he asked what I study and we spent a few  minutes geeking out about history. He treated me like a whole person, someone with concerns and a life beyond my cancer, and he very clearly wanted to make sure I understood what was going on before I took the radioiodine. Every medical professional, from nurses to radiologists to doctors, that I’ve interacted with during this experience has been very kind, compassionate, and informative. I’ve never felt dismissed, and I’m extremely grateful for that.

My dose of I-131 is 75 micrograms, which is apparently more or less average. They used to have to give people higher doses of radiation because so much of the thyroid was left behind after surgery. But thanks to medical advances like the harmonic scalpel (it’s a real thing, not sci fi!), surgeons can remove more of the thyroid, leaving less to be irradiated. Since my cancer was self-contained and my lymph node pathology came back clean, I get to have a relatively small dose of radiation.

Why am I excited? Well, most of the guidelines for people undergoing I-131 are written for the whole range of doses, so they tend to err on the side of caution. “Don’t get near other people for a week” and things like that. I checked, and I am totally cleared to go see The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug at the end of next week with my boyfriend. These are, after all, the important things.

I got home by 10:30. Five and a half hours later … I’m a little bored. I’ve been reading, I napped, I’ve been checking every social media platform on which I have an account. It’s not being alone that’s boring, it’s being stuck in my room. I suspect part of the problem is that I already spent most of the week in this room, working on the two essays for my minor field exam. I also have to keep the door closed so the cats don’t come wandering in. On the upside, I have books to read, both ones I’ve been saving and two which were gifts, I have movies (and Netflix), and a package just arrived from my sister. All shall be well.

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