By BJ Reyes
So today marked the first day of radioactive living.
Let's do a quick status check: Holding the cell phone and the charge indicator does not go on. Popcorn kernels are not popping in the palm of my hand. No extra channels are coming in. And there is no discernible glow emanating from anywhere in my immediate area. Now all we need is an insect bite to see if anything happens to me, but probably nothing. The insect, though, may develop the uncanny ability to write 18" of copy on deadline! =)
So fun times aside (and I'm having way too much fun with this on social media) the Radioactive Iodine (RAI-131)* treatment is absolutely nothing to sniff at. It mostly involves a lot of consults and a lot of education about what precautions to take involving the self-imposed quarantine.
Thyroid cells thrive on iodine. The radioactive iodine works by attracting itself to any residual thyroid and cancerous tissue cells leftover from the thyroidectomy and essentially killing them. This was the reason for the low-iodine diet. In order to ensure the iodine goes to the thyroid cells, and not any other iodine-rich organs or surrounding tissue, we have to deprive the body of this mineral for a certain amount of time.
There are no side effects, such as hair loss. There may be a little nausea at the outset and some patients may experience swelling of the saliva glands leading to dry mouth. Supposedly sour candy or gum helps in this department.
Perhaps the most amusing part of this was being in what I assumed to be a lead-lined room at Queen's Medical Center and hearing the Geiger Counter go absolutely nuts when the tech removed the metal cover from the jar holding the little capsule I had to swallow.
Evidently, this treatment used to be done in-patient (in special lead-lined rooms, I imagine) to keep the patient away from people and prevent outside contamination. But that just led to high hospital bills and exposure to bad hospital food. The quarantine lasts at least four days, the period for which the probability will be highest that the radioactivity from the iodine may be released from bodily fluids such as sweat, saliva and urine.
Patients may now choose to do this at home, but you must agree, and sign, saying you understand the terms. They include: Keeping a minimum distance of at least 6 feet from others. Do not use public transportation, nor public restrooms. Do not share a bathroom at home. You may not stay at a hotel. All for at least four days.
Since we only have one bathroom, I am at home and my wife is staying with family through Sunday night.
Anyone who has been through this knows all this and knows it is wholly do-able.
The treatment was supposed to begin Friday, but due to blood tests indicating everything was in order (one can only assume I was pretty good with that diet) we started it today.
Which brings up the worst part of this whole thing: I have to GO BACK on the low-iodine diet for at least two full days after today, when I can begin taking thyroid hormones again.
But since I did so good at sticking to it, I bought myself a reward: A great big bag of cheese puffs! =)
* - The name kind of has a whole Marvin the Martian Illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator vibe going for it!