– OUTFIT DETAILS –
It’s funny. I’ve shared about my story quite a bit on Instagram that I forget I haven’t always done the same here on the blog. So, for those of you who may have missed my Instagram posts or Instagram stories, I’m going to share a little update on my thyroid cancer treatment and where I am on the road to recovery.
As I shared in my last blog post, I had a full thyroidectomy and neck dissection to remove the cancerous lymph nodes back in December. Since then, I’ve played a bit of a waiting game, recovering from the surgery. I knew I would undergo a dose of chemotherapy, but that I would have to wait a minimum of 6-8 weeks post-surgery to have it.
During that period of waiting, I did quite a bit of physical therapy- on my lymphatic system, since 27 of my lymph nodes were removed, and on my scar (which ended up taking up a large section of my neck). As a result, my scar is looking pretty damn good, and the edema from my lymph node removal is going down. Hooray!
In March, the time came for my chemotherapy. In preparation, I had to go on a 15 day Iodine-free diet. Sounds simple, and yet iodine is in everything we eat. Or, rather, it’s in salt, which is in everything we eat. I had to eliminate all dairy, bread, grains, and all packaged foods from my diet. This sent me into a bout of deep depression, I believe, because my body wasn’t getting some of the nutrients I needed that controlled my mood.
A little bit of background on this chemotherapy I had: it’s called Radioactive Iodine Therapy and is unlike most forms of chemo that treat other kinds of cancers. The thyroid gland absorbs nearly all of the iodine in your body. When you take the Radioactive Iodine, it concentrates in the iodine cells, which are then absorbed by the thyroid. The radioactive part is what works to kill the thyroid gland and to destroy any remaining thyroid cells left in your body (and hopefully all of the cancer that’s with it). It does, however, leave the rest of your body relatively unscathed, so I was able to keep my hair, and felt pretty great while I was on it.
The only down side was the isolation. When you take the pill (yes, chemotherapy is often dosed in the form of a pill), it makes you radioactive for up to 7 days. Which means anyone or thing I came into contact with, or even a 3-feet proximity of for up to 3 days post-dosing, was at risk of having their thyroid killed because I was that radioactive. The chemo that was killing my thyroid… there was nothing to stop it from killing everyone else’s other than distance and isolation.
So? I rented an AirBNB for 5 days, made lots of jewelry, ate lots of salt-free food (remember, no-iodine), watched lots of Brooklyn-99, and was generally pretty depressed. Being unable to leave the AirBNB, see my husband or children, or any people at all, was more difficult than I anticipated it would be. Once the 5 days were over, I was able to come home but I had to stay in a back bedroom of our house for two days so that my two-year-old daughter wouldn’t know I was home. Though I was cleared to go back, children, pets and pregnant women are extra susceptible to the RI, so we decided to add 2 days to the end of my isolation for padding.
Three days after my isolation was over, I had a full body scan to show where the cancer was in my body. Friends, I cannot tell you how scary this was. Since being diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer back in November, I knew that I had cancer in my neck, but had no idea if it had metastasized elsewhere in my body… until this point in time. The 4 days spent waiting for my results to come back were truly some of the most fearful moments of my life. I thought, maybe the cancer had spread to my lungs, or maybe they would discover another form of cancer along the way. But praise be to God, the results revealed that I only have cancer in my neck, which was exactly what my doctor expected. Notice how I used the present tense of the word “have” there. I say have because the Radioactive Iodine Therapy doesn’t get rid of the cancer right away. We won’t know if it truly “worked” to rid the cancer for 6 more months, when we repeat the full-body scan. So for now, I wait.