Just last Tuesday night my Momma got into town and my anxiety was beginning to spike. It was the night before I went in for my full dose of Radioactive Iodine and last night with my family before being put in isolation. I wanted to soak up this moment but knew I needed to keep the kiddos in their routine for everyone sanity. We had a fun family night with the Wii Mario Party 8 – love that game!! We even let them stay up until 8:30pm on a school night, which everyone knows that Mommy does NOT do because I just didn’t want to kiss them goodnight. Eventually the fun times ended for the kids but not so much for us, the adults (or older children if you will) took the opportunity to start a new game and played with just the four of us!! It was so much fun and brought back memories! I surely didn’t want the night to end early because I knew of all nights, I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so we were easily able to persuade my Mom to stay up a while to drink a few and talk and hang out. I think we all went to bed between the hours of midnight and 1am – whew it made for a rough wake up call Wednesday morning!!
I tossed and turned much of the night, kept staring at the alarm clock between the hours of 3:30pm and 6:00am so finally when my alarm went off at 6am – I decided to get up and take a shower before my kiddos got up. By the time I got downstairs, my Mom already started to get the kids fed. I pulled out my binder the hospital sent me prior to starting all my appointments – yes I have a 1/2 inch binder from the Nuclear Medicine Dept. It has so much information in it that you seriously can’t read it all at one time (but I have twice) – but I still had to pull it out and read the RAI treatment day one more time. I started to pull all my jewelry off (because of course I forgot that I had to do that – and made me sad that I had to take my wedding band and engagement ring off). I did keep my “Noone fights alone” Thyroid Cancer wrist band on because I knew I could replace it if they kept it in the hospital. I wasn’t sure if I would need it for strength while I was there. I also needed to make sure I packed baggy for both my cell phone and iPad. I made copies of the couple of pages I thought were important pages of information I needed with me in the hospital.
What to pack (and I packed everything in one of those $1 reusable grocery bags):
- I packed my medication loosely in individual baggies for two days (in case I stayed an extra day – as instructed).
- My MIL bought me two large bags of sour lemon candies and I only brought one bag with me just in case they only let me bring one back with me.
- Gatorade or lemonade or tea or another favorite drink aside from water. Trust me – you’ll want something other than water. I brought 2 gallons of Gatorade.
- Magazines or other reading materials that you are willing to part with. My MIL had been saving them for a while for me and these were lifesavers.
- iPad/Phone/Chargers (as long as your hospital will allow) – Washington Hospital allowed it as long as they stayed in a baggie so please be sure to ask before you bring. Honestly I read more than anything because I kept falling asleep during my shows and it was very frustrating.
- You will need two forms of ID (your license and a debit card) in order to sign the paperwork so they are able to give you the radiation. And of course your insurance card – don’t forget that! I kept those three cards in a baggy and kept with my things.
I was thankful to have gotten most of everything packed and ready the day before and was even able to take the kiddos to school/daycare with my Momma. Once back at the house I attempted to get a banana down (if only I’d known how long I’d have to wait until another meal I would’ve tried a little harder lol). Said my goodbyes to my Momma then Spencer and I were on our way to DC by 8:30am. Once we got to the hospital, we got to the admittance area and literally got checked in right away as there was no one else there for in-patient. Spencer felt so silly carrying the 2 gallons of Gatorade but as soon as we walked in, the lady flagged us down and told us we were in the right area. After waiting another 45 minutes, we finally got called saying that my room was ready.
Once we got up to the room, I think that’s when reality really hit me. Every square inch of the room was covered with something. The floors were covered and taped together with blue absorbent pads (the ones you under you after you have a baby). The door knob to the bathroom and hot/cold to faucet were covered with surgical gloves. The TV remote was in a special baggie. I wasn’t allowed to touch the light switches so that meant I had to sleep with the lights on. The window shelf was lined will mini pitchers of water and ice. The nurse came in took my blood pressure and my temperature. She let me get things situated in the room and get changed in a gown before coming back in. At that point I put my clean clothes (that I just wore for a total of 3 hours) in a gallon size baggie that I secured in a closet on the opposite side of the room (closest to the door) and I was not allowed to open that closet once I took the RAI.
Eventually Hutch, the Radiation Safety Technician, whom my husband would describe as Bob Sapp physically because he was a big dude – he was like 6’4″, muscular, scrubs that were way too small for as built as was, he had a huge bicycle chain for a wallet chain but the minute that he started talking to you – he was seriously the sweetest and funniest man ever! He explained the whole process and what to expect throughout the night. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything until at least 2 hours after I was given my RAI. I would need to take a shower, urinate, and suck on lemon candies every 2 hours. The purpose of the lemon candies are that they actually keep the salivary glands working – otherwise the radiation will continue to settle in the glands and they will become blocked and extremely swollen. He also said that if I got sick and vomited during the time that I was in there that I would need to let the nurse know because they would need to test my levels to see if I would need to take more. With that being said, I would be given Zofran prior to the RAI but if I did feel sick I should head straight for the bathroom. This became a very big joke for my Hubby because this very large man trying to say in a very lighthearted way, and in VERY different words but basically not to trust a fart. Hutch tried to emphasize this because he would be the one that would have to clean up any messes and obviously wanted to avoid that at all costs. This was very amusing to my Hubby and he decided to pass along the message to my best friend and SIL and implied that I may have had a problem…thank God they know his sense of humor!!
Anyways….we waited a good 2 hours for the Zofran to get up to the room and then another 20 minutes before the RAI. My dose was supposed to be 275 mci but as long as it’s within the 10% when it’s measured. So my final dose was actually 265.5 mci. The Nuclear Medicine doctor came in explained the risks once again, I signed more paperwork then I said my goodbyes to Spencer to 3:15pm. Then they placed 3 doses of RAI into tiny cups and I had to swallow each of them with the little water in one cup. Shortly after the nurses emptied the room and Hutch came back in a couple minutes later to get my radiation levels. At three feet my levels were at 49 millirems/hour, after that – I was alone. They shut the door, put the radiation sign in front of my door and I had to wait 2 hours before I could eat – it had been since 8am since my banana…yes I was hungry now…..
I started off with watching Grey’s Anatomy – I had been watching it on Netflix from Season the last couple months but still had a few seasons to go. But I just couldn’t focus or get comfortable. I think I got up and out of the bed at least 3 or 4 times in that first 1 1/2 hours. Just to walk around and look out the window or stretch my legs. I turned on the news for a little bit which was just dumb, we were expecting 6-10 inches of snow starting the next morning so that’s all they could talk about. And all I could think about was making sure my Hubby could get here safely to pick me up the next day. Or that my kiddos would no doubt have a snow day and I wouldn’t be able to take the sledding which was one of my favorite things for me to do as a family. So I quickly tried to make myself lay down and take a nap…I think we all know that didn’t happen but wishful thinking. Starting at 4:30pm I was able to starting drinking and sucking on candies, which I swear only made me more hungry! Eventually 5:30pm came slowly enough and I was allowed to eat!!! YAY! I called the nurse and she said she was going to be down in about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, 6pm came and went and still no food. I called again and she forgot. She did feel horrible but come on lady….I was hungry! Then I saw the food. Haha I forgot I was still on my diet and it was hospital food – yeah this was horrible. I barely ate but at least I ate something!
I continued to follow my routine of chug gatorade, eat sour candies, go to the bathroom, shower, watch Grey’s Anatomy, fall asleep, wake up, read magazine, repeat! I originally told many people to call or text or FaceTime as much as possible but honestly I was so tired and busy doing what I needed to do or just didn’t feel up to talking much like I would have thought. I know one of the best things I was able to do was Skype home – seeing the kiddos, my Hubby, and my Momma!
It was definitely a hard night with my alarm going off every 2 hours and I honestly thought it would take more discipline but I guess when you say this is what is going to get rid of your cancer then you just don’t it without question. Once daylight hit, I was ready to go, and so was Hutch – he had the Nurse call first thing in the morning and got me ready to be released. When he came by to check my radiation levels they were down to a 10, which is awesome!! They have to be under 14 before they can release you. The nurse came down and went over all the discharge paperwork and I was free!!! I was able to change into my normal clothes and got to sit downstairs until my Hubby arrived.
Of course, because it’s the week of the year for the DC metro area so it’s taking my Hubby a while to get to the hospital. I decided to sit in the one seat furthest away from anyone from a lady in the in-patient admissions area. She saw my Gatorade and asked if I was there for RAI – long story short it ended up being someone from my FB Thyroid Cancer Support Group. What a small world that we ended up both being there in the same room as she was waiting to be checked in as I was checked out. We ended up talking for an hour.
Once my Hubby got there that started what what no doubt one of the hardest 7 days of my life….isolation. And that will be a blog for another day!