Saturday, May 1, 2010

Capillary Thyroid Carcinoma – Part 4 of 4 - Radiation

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.


  1. Wow,I had no idea how easily we take for granted all the iodine laden foods we eat. I hope all your treatments go well at the end of the month. - G

  2. Georgina - I had no idea either! I was really surprised at the amount of soy and seaweed products are in our food either.

  3. WOW! I have been reading all of this with great interest, although I am guilty of not commenting because these things sort of freak me out, but I really agree with the fact that we are not always aware of what we are eating.
    I have a friend who is lactose intolerant, and finding food that has no milk, or milk products in it is hell!
    Good luck with your next tests. Hope everything is clear.

  4. That sounds like a heaping bag of suck. But it is interesting to learn about. Iodine free diet... ick.

  5. Funny that all the doctors say that same thing. After the 3rd one, I'd want to tell him where to go.

  6. I hope you get a great report and stay cancer free! I hate that you had to go through all that, but am glad that you were able to catch it. Good luck with the diet - that would be torture! Praying for the best!

  7. A really interesting and informative post. What were your symptoms?

  8. I'm so untrusting and such a big chicken $hit, I would have requested coma induction at the getgo. The no salt diet would kick my butt! I don't do many spices, but I gotta have my salt.

  9. Gee, Pat, having burdens is just like old clothes for you...since you have already gone through so much in your life, this should be familiar to you...
    As always, I wish you peace and happiness.

  10. Thanks all, for the good vibes!

    Dot - There were no symptoms. I was just lucky! here's the link to how it was found!

  11. Keeping my fingers crossed for good news.

  12. My son was told he had one of the better cancers too. Personally, I think no cancer would be a heck of a lot better. I hope all your future tests come back free and clear.

  13. When you said about the iodine free diet I was like "What is iodine in anyway?".. and then you listed everything and I was like "Oh.. so what isn't it in?"

  14. My good thoughts and prayers coming your way. Hope the next test comes out as good as your last one.

  15. Ugh, so horrible. I had no idea that isolation factors into to these type of tests.
    I'm going to be crossing all of my fingers and toes for your next tests.

  16. Thanks so much! I'm pretty sure it's all going to turn out okay!

    thanks, Jesse!!!

  17. Yaaaay, my happy ending !!!
    Sending positive vibes for two thumbs up after the next tests....when all is said and done the only thing that really matters is our health. Peace

  18. keeping my fingers crossed for a clean bill of health for you! glad to hear that it was caught early and treated. thanks for sharing! :)

  19. What a great story about a terrible thing...You have an awesome attitude about your whole situation.

  20. Glad they caught it early and all is well. The American melting pot seems to have treated you good. Here's hoping to your clean bill of health!

  21. i'm sure that you were "thankful" for having to stay away from pregnant women (or men) at the time, being that two pains in your asses were pregnant at the time.... hee hee hee.... maybe that's what's wrong with lewie.... maybe i came around you too soon.... and that's why he's a MONSTER!!!!


    i DO remember you shopping (continuously) for all the iodine free foods, and everytime i'd come over, you were out "shopping" and if you were home, you were, indeed, eating. ;)

  22. Thanks for this installment!!

    I wrote a novel once in which one of my characters had the same experience so I had to research thyroid cancer. It was fascinating! I am sure you might not classify it as such....

    May good health be yours!

  23. Hey, thanks for asking. Great posts, and I hope your tests are perfect.

  24. So so so so so glad the story ended up okay!!:D I'm crossing my fingers for the test to come out perfectly OKAY!!

  25. Our cat was treated for hyperthyroid .. $1700 .. an injection and isolation at the endocrinologist's(he is American)hospital for a week and then for 2 weeks no holding for more than 15 min a day, not going near kids and/or pregnant women .. she's fine now her only problem now would be if she went hypothyroid ....

  26. I've got fingers and toes crossed for a clean bill of health!

    I laughed out loud at the part where a woman in a lead suit (which I pictured looked like the guy disarming bombs in the Hurt Locker) took the pill out with tongs.... And just placed it in your unprotected hand....

  27. I'm late but still catching up on your blog. I have to admit that I'm not much of a reader but I really enjoyed reading your story. I read part one first then I was going to read part two but before I knew it I read it all like a good book. I'm so glad that you are doing well and I hope that continues. I also think I'm going to find a doctor and get a check up. I also liked seeing your pictures of Japan.

  28. I like such stories with happy end :)

  29. I've been taking natural thyroid supplements for about a month now and feel SO much better on just 1/4 grain a day. There are some slight heart palpitations at the beginning, which now seem to have stopped.


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