I am at 3.5 weeks post op and had my radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment this morning. For the next three days I am in isolation, so this is a perfect time to get caught up with blogging and reflect on the last several weeks.
I started the low iodine diet 2.5 weeks ago. This is often a challenging diet for people, but is essentially what I do already. I have eaten my normal vegan diet but eliminated soy, dark leafy greens, sea vegetables, and I switched to a non-iodized salt. No processed foods and no eating out. The main issue has been related to the hypo symptoms. My digestive system has slowed down and I have found one small meal a day supplemented with juices and smoothies is about all I can handle. I have sincerely enjoyed the many delicious meals my friends and family have shared with me. The variety and creativity has encouraged my appetite.
The purpose of the low iodine diet is to make any remaining thyroid tissue “hungry” for iodine so when you are given the RAI, the iodine depleted cells suck it up, which then kills them. Ideally this is just in the thyroid area, but if thyroid cancer cells have spread any other areas, like the lymph nodes or lungs, it will hopefully also kill those cells, as well as lighting them up on a full body scan. My full body scan is a week from today.
In my reading about RAI, I have learned that people react differently to the treatment. Some people have very few side effects, while some people feel quite ill. At the end of day one, the verdict is still out. I was given 100 millicuries of I-131 in the form of three capsules delivered to me in a glass vial in a lead case. One swallow and it was done. I had been concerned about the two-hour ride home over a mountain pass, but I felt good and it was a stunningly gorgeous day. I enjoyed the clear blue skies, snow covered mountains, and listened to my hero Don Richmond all the way home. I could feel a burning sensation in the throat area as the remnant tissue soaked up the radiation. It was a very unusual feeling, but not painful. I cheered the RAI on – “Go do what you have come here to do!” Since being home, the burning sensation has continued and spread. At one point I woke abruptly from a nap with a hot burning flush and my heart pounding at over 100 beats per minute. It was a scary feeling, but thankfully has not returned. In general I feel pretty awful, but it is hard at this point to distinguish hypo symptoms from RAI symptoms. Either way, I take comfort in the fact that this is a temporary condition and it will be over at some point. “This too shall pass.”
There are a few things I need a little more time to wrap my mind around and hope to write about soon: Recognizing the lessons, even gifts, embedded in an experience like this, the beautiful compliment of Western medicine and alternative therapies I have experienced, and most of all, the overwhelming and amazing support from my family and friends. I have been humbled to the core by this and have not yet found the words to communicate the sincerity of my gratitude.
I close with this video of the song Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. My favorite part is at 2:38 where the little pink dude uses radiation to kick ass. Time for the challenger to rise.