Today marks 9 years since I had my last radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment. I use that term loosely because the definition of treatment is medical care given to a patient for illness or injury. Radioactive iodine is not caring. It is destructive. I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in March 2000. After that time I was submitted to 2 partial thryoidectomies (March & April 2000) because my doctor didn’t know what he was doing. He neglected to do a frozen section to check for malignancy before closing me back up so I had to go back in and have the rest of my thyroid removed in order to have the RAI treatment.
On May 26th, 2000 I received 100 mCis of RAI that I was assured would take care of the cancer and allow me to continue my life with the addition of a little pill (Synthroid). I was so naive. I had no idea that radioactive iodine is the cause of cancer. When there are nuclear reactors that leak or meltdown it is I-131 (the same isotope I was given) that is released and the reason why the government will hand out potassium iodide to protect the thyroid gland from radiation damage.
I was sent home after taking the I-131 capsule. It was so toxic that the technician didnt even handle the prescription bottle. It arrived in a lead cylinder with a screw on top. She removed the bottle with tongs and handed it to me. I was forced to take it with water and then show that it was no longer in my mouth like a child. I would remain in isolation in my home for 10 days due to being radioactive. My son was 6 mos old at the time. Here is a link to a detailed post on my first RAI.
In years past, patients were required to stay in the hospital in isolation. All items that entered into the hospital room were not allowed to leave. All food scraps were placed in a special garbage can and disposed of separately. No one entered the room for up to 5 days. Then someone would come into the room with a Geiger counter to check for radiation levels before the patient could be discharged. Now the NRC believes it is safe to be sent home to radiate your family and pets.
In January 2001, my new doctor declared that I still had cancer because my first doctor treated me incorrectly. So I returned for another round of RAI. This time 150 mCis. My son was now 15 mos old. I once again went into isolation at my home. The treatment was rougher than the last one. You can read the full experience on my blog post.
Things seemed to go well for the next few years. I had my second baby in June 2002. I did OK but was always fatigued and dealing with anxiety. I thought that I had put the cancer behind me. But then in 2005 it happened again. I heard the words Your cancer is back and you need more RAI. This time I would receive 250 mCis of RAI and would be sent home again to my almost 3 yr old and 5 yr old. They did not understand why mom could not be with them for 10 days. I purchased 10 dollar store toys for each to open one per day so that they could count the remaining gifts to know how long before mom could be with them again. It seems like yesterday, yet it seems like a dream. This treatment was the the last RAI I could receive because it put me at the maximum lifetime dose. I never want to go through that form of treatment again. It was truly hell on earth. That part of my story can be read here. I thought I had finally conquered it.. or so I hoped.
Then in January 2006, I heard the words I didnt want to hear. Your markers are up again and we need to consider external beam radiation. I had a ThyCa friend who had traveled the same path I had traveled. Three RAIs (failed) and then external beam. Except he died after the external beam. I could not bear to leave my 3 & 5 year old w/o a mother. As I wept in the parking lot after my endocrinologist appointment I heard a gentle voice tell me I have given you all you need to heal. You just need to find someone to help you. The next day I made an appointment with Dr Brownstein and by August of 2009 I was cancer free no external beam radiation.
Today I celebrate the 9 years since my last radiation treatment. I praise God for healing me with his perfect provision.
Psalm 118:17 (KJV)
17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.