A month after my surgery. I have an appointment with a nuclear endocrinologist. Apparently, my “regular” endocrinologist, who is himself, a specialist, believes he has left me with some money and wants me to pass it up the medical food chain. So now I’m seeing a guy, who is a notch or two higher up the “specialist” totem pole, who I’m sure, will relieve me of what money I have left.
The doctor tells me that he will introduce some radiated iodine into my system. It should destroy any thyroid cells left in my body. The radiated iodine can’t be given to me until after I’ve been subjected to a three week, total iodine free diet. It didn’t sound too bad, and he gave me a pamphlet to read at home that explains the diet. Yeah right!
No salt, no processed foods, no meat, no fish, no nuts, no fast food, no restaurant food, no pre-packaged meats, no canned vegetables, no sea salt, no seaweed, and no soy products. It still didn’t seem so bad until I went shopping. Oh my! It was almost impossible to find anything to eat. Surprisingly, the hardest things to avoid were the soy and seaweed. They are used in almost everything we eat these days. I was able to find non-iodized salt though.
For three weeks, I lived on grilled chicken and pork loin, seasoned with non-iodized salt and pepper only. I also ate dehydrated fruit, canned peaches, and plain popcorn. You would think that I might lose weight during the diet, but I was so unsatisfied with what I ate, that I ate continuously.
Finally the three weeks diet is over. I go back to the doctor. I have three appointments on consecutive days. On day one, I get an injection. It cost 2500 dollars. On day two, I get another injection. It also cost 2500 dollars. On day three, I get the radioactive iodine. I was led to a room in the back of the building to wait. After a few minutes a person entered the room in a lead suit. She was carrying a heavy lead container in one hand and a pair of long tongs in the other. She set the container on the table and after taking off the lid, removed from it, a single pill. After dropping the pill into my bare hand (with the tongs), she told me to swallow it with water and drive directly home.
I did go home, but it didn’t exactly feel like it, because I had to go into total isolation for three days, stay away from children for a week, and away from pregnant women for 14 days.
The idea is pretty simple. My thyroid gland was removed. Some thyroid cells still exist in the thyroid “bed.” If the cancer spread, there will be thyroid cells elsewhere in my body. One obscure fact about thyroid cells of which I was not aware, is that they are the only cells in your entire body that can gather and retain iodine.
• The diet starved any thyroid cells in my body of iodine.
•I take a pill made of radioactive iodine
• Any iodine starved thyroid cells remaining in my body pig out.
• The radioactivity kills them.
About a month later, I went for a “gamma-ray” camera scan of my entire body. If there were any “radioactive” thyroid cells anywhere besides in my throat, that would mean the cancer had spread. I’m very happy to say it hadn’t. At least at that point, it hadn't.
Currently, I go to the endocrinologist every three months for blood work and a consultation. Apparently, the goal now is to trick my brain into not sending out a hormone, that triggers the thyroid into activating. If that hormone is released into my bloodstream, it is akin to pouring gas on a fire. Of course, if there are zero thyroid cells left in my body, especially cancerous ones, I have nothing to worry about, but better safe than sorry.
All of the doctors involved told me the same thing, “if you have to get cancer, and if you catch it early, thyroid cancer is the one you want, because it’s very treatable.” I didn’t realize until later that there was a reason they all threw the “if you catch it early” caveat into the phrase. Apparently, if you don’t catch it early, it is one of the last ones you would want. It tends to go directly into your bones.
It’s been almost a year since the surgery and I’ve almost forgotten about the iodine free diet. I have to do it again in a few weeks. This time I’m going to request a medically induced coma during the diet period. And nobody better step on my buzz! If this test comes out okay, I get a clean bill of health!
• Orthopedist (who found it) is Indian
• MRI tech was Filipino
• GP is Caucasian
• Endocrinologist is Persian
• Surgeon is Chinese
• Nuclear Endocrinologist is Vietnamese
That in a nutshell, is the United States of America!
I really liked and had great confidence in all of them.