I’m officially half-way through my pre-radiation preparatory period, which is both encouraging and discouraging. One week from today I will be at nuclear medicine for my whole body scan, then based on the results, ingesting radioactive iodine (I-131) and then being checked-in to the hospital basement’s quarantine (no personal belongings [including no phones/computer], and no contact with living organisms – at least not macroscopic ones) for approximately 2 days, followed by an additional 2 weeks with little to no human/pet contact.
The reason for my isolation is that I will be ingesting “nuclear radiation” – the same radiation used in nuclear fusion and released from nuclear power plant failures (same stuff released during atomic bomb testing in the 1950s, the Chernobyl disaster, and the recent Japanese nuclear crisis). The “medicine” (technically “chemotherapy”) I’ll be taking will be manufactured at a nuclear facility – as a “side business” so to speak. The isotope has a half-life of around 8 days (full life of around 90 days). Once I ingest it, I’ll be literally radioactive and it will go to work killing the cells in my body which uptake it.
There are then two ways I will be harmful to others. Foremost, I’ll be admitting radiation (i.e. I would set off alarms at airport security). Any person or animal that stands within 7+ feet of me will be exposed and potentially absorbing the radiation themselves, which in turn will kill any cells that uptake the iodine in their bodies. There is not much I can do about this, other than to try to stay away from others and wait as the isotope breaks down into a stable form. Fortunately most of this happens fairly quickly; by 8 days it should be down to 50% of it’s original radioactivity and by 16+ days it should be down to 25% . The second factor, is that my body will be eliminating any extra (not uptaken) iodine through my bodily fluids (mostly saliva, sweat, pee/poop, tears). To help facilitate this, I’ll be drinking massive amounts of water, showering several times a day, and washing my sheets/towels/clothes daily (as the iodine can be washed off with water). So it’s important that no one have contact with my fluids during the first week; most places advise for the first month.
It’s not something I’m particularly looking forward to, esp. since I know I’ll be feeling worse than I already do now. And that is tired, sluggish and forgetful. I’m at my best in the morning and then slowly sink throughout the day until I’m trying to move at the bottom of a pool (though with no particular sense of urgency). Every day things (pushing a vacuum, lifting a loaded laundry basket, opening a jar), are starting to feel like monumental tasks. I’m enternally grateful for an understanding husband and prepared low-iodine meals (the bloggers were right, having to think/cook at this point forward really would suck!).
So how are the kids (as I’m often asked)? Fine. At ages 3 & 5 they understand what is going on and their expected behavior……well, at least the physical side of things. They know I have thyroid cancer and that my thyroid was removed. They know my nose wasn’t working properly and I had surgery to fix it. They know these two weeks I’m going to “not feel well”, disappear for a week, and then come back and live in the basement where they can’t come near me for another week plus. And with these basic principles, they’ve faired really well. But what they don’t understand is that I’m not just physically impaired, but mentally and emotionally as well. To them I am still “Mommy”, always at their beck-and-call and my roll in this aspect has been continuous. Naturally, they haven’t been more patient, cooperative, understanding, mellow…..they’ve just continued to act their boisterous selves until I feel like hiding under the bed until Daddy comes home 🙂
So I find myself (esp. in the evenings) overreacting and lashing out at them before spewing apologies for my impulsive behavior. Warnings of my defeated mood or short-temper seem (to me) to go unheeded. So I’ve been taking a short break while Rick does bathes and then taking my place back in the rocker/glider as we have done for years reading and telling stories before bed, esp. since this will be my last week of snuggles until after Christmas. At this point I want to drink them up until I’m spilling over, hoping that I can take some of them with me when I’m isolated to make it more bearable.
And since I promised the kids I’d be “better” at Christmas, but Christmas still falls within my 2 week isolation, we’re moving it! This year Santa will come on Dec. 30th, and hopefully fulfill his promise of making Mommy “all better”! Of course, I’m still wary of hugs and snuggles on “day 17”, but I’m going to try to just get over it and enjoy the day, as no doubt we all will!