Go on, go live your life.
Hypothyroidism does not suit me well. Shit, I don’t do a common cold well.
It was a rough two and a half weeks, finishing up a month of not taking any synthetic thyroid hormone at all. And then on top of it, a scan to find out if there was more cancer, and then treatment.
I felt like I was swimming through molasses, my brain foggy, my body heavy. So heavy. Stairs seeming impossible. Having to take breaks on walks, the skin around my eyes swelling, feeling like I needed to melt into whatever chair I was sitting in. You could see my pulse on my neck — booming and slow – my heart working hard to push blood through my body.
And then I got the scan, which told me preliminary decent news. A moderate size mass of cells in my neck, but nothing elsewhere. What lit up in my neck, after taking a preliminary, small dose of Radioactive Iodine (RAI) was moderate in size – not so big that they needed to operate again – but large enough for a big dose of RAI. And, in that preliminary scan – they did not see any cells that had metastasized elsewhere. Cautious optimism.
I came back, the next day, for the dose of RAI. They removed the pill from a metal container, had me take it with water and then read me with a Geiger Counter. It tested positive. I was officially radioactive.
I spent the past week in isolation, a danger to those around me. People couldn’t be within 6-10 feet of me, and so I spent the time mostly at home – getting out for a week each day. Mostly I felt terrible, my thyroid levels so low that it was tough to concentrate for longer periods of time. I finished watching Stranger Things, I read a book. I chased down some dust bunnies hiding in the corner, and mostly I just tried to feel ok, counting down the days.
And then I had to go back for a second scan – this one that would tell me if the preliminary one, with a small dose of RAI was correct. Perhaps the small dose wasn’t taken up by a small subset of cells that had decided to migrate south of my neck. The apprehension of the scan was off-set by the fact that I was starting to feel better, as I was able to get back on my meds, and I could feel them slowly taking affect. My pulse moving into the low to mid-50s. The ability to focus longer. No longer feeling like I needed to melt. The swelling around my eyes going down slightly.
After the scan, I waited anxiously for the nuclear doctor. She walked out, and without even taking me to her office, said – no other signs – and what is in your neck lit up a lot – meaning those cells took up a lot of the RAI. I raised my arms in a cheer, wanting to hug this rather stoic Russian woman (I held back). But she did smile.
‘Go on, go live your life’, she said.
This isn’t the end, of course. I have to wait and hope that the RAI will kill everything that is left in my neck. There is more blood work and scans in my future. And I need to work with my endocrinologist to get my hormone levels right, which will take the next few months of tinkering. But, I’ve gotten some good advice, and some good support and I now I know what hypothyroid feels like (please, never again).
But for now, right now, this is the best news I can get.
I let out a deep breath (as much as I can with my still hypothyroid-lungs-and-heart). These moments come and go, don’t they? These moments of — go live your life, mixed in with — hold your breath, this is scary. And we’re all just along for the ride.
I’ll take it.