Please excuse the light blogging here this week, but my brain had been not quite as focused as a meth-addled spider monkey trapped in one of those bingo-blower machines.
I was pretty sure what was going on a week ago. Six weeks before that, my endocrinologist told me to schedule my next appointment for four months — unless my thyroid numbers came back higher. They’d been on the High end of Normal for a couple months, so we were keeping a close eye on things. Sure enough, the results came back and the doc said, “See me in two months.”
I made it six weeks before the shaking hands and the short temper and all the rest forced me in for another blood test. I’d already cut my coffee back from three cups to two cups, then cut those two cups down to half-caff. By last week, just that first cup had me wanting to climb the walls. And then the pounds started to melt off even as I was eating more. Anorectics, take note!
But this is an old road, and I had no doubt where it led: Time to drink the radioactive iodine and kill off this damn thyroid. I would have done it five years ago, but no doses were available — and I was at the point then where I needed treatment right the hell now. With thyroid issues, you can take the pills or take the iodine, but you can’t take both. So I took the pills. Not this time, though — this time we’re going for the permanent solution.
But they don’t let just anyone drink radioactive isotopes, no sir. First, the doctor needs to make sure make sure you really need to do it. Which is why yesterday I went through The World’s Most Boring Set of Medical Tests™. I swear I’m not making this up.
Step 1: Don’t eat. Telling someone with a hyperactive thyroid that they can’t eat is like making a junky go cold turkey, only angrier.
Step 2: Take two little capsules filled with a mildly-radioactive form of iodine. About the same amount of radiation as a chest X-ray.
Step 3: Go away for six hours and do nothing.
Step 4: Correction to Step 3. You won’t do nothing as your now-enraged thyroid swells up and makes it impossible to swallow.
Step 5: Consider pitching “The Angry Thyroid” to the producers of The Masters of Horror.
Step 6: The wait is over! Time for the incredibly boring tests!
Step 7: In this first test, you push your neck up against something that looks like the working end of a hobbyist telescope from Soviet Russia, only clunkier. Just when you’ve pushed the top of the iron tube into the most uncomfortable bit of tender skin at the top of your throat, the very friendly tech has you push it up and in a little farther.
Step 8: Sit there like that a while.
Step 9: This is where the tech becomes really impressed by just how much radiation your thyroid managed to soak up in just six hours. “The numbers shot up like a rocket,” she tells you.
Step 10: No you hold your arm in front of the Soviet telescope, so the friendly tech can measure your background radiation, and deduct that from the total.
Step 11: This is where the tech becomes really impressed that your background radiation is lower than that of the Earth, because of just how much radiation your thyroid managed to soak up in just six hours. “1,000 is about normal,” she says. The number on the screen says 800.
Step 12: Now it’s time for the Gamma Camera. This is how they take a picture of your thyroid, using “film” sensitive to the gamma radiation you had for breakfast. The machine looks like a poor man’s MRI. You lie there, perfectly still, while a massive cube of steel floats in front of your face like Judge Reinhold in that episode of Seinfeld. This goes on for ten minutes.
Step 13: Now we do it again, for another ten minutes, from the left!
Step 14: Now we do it again, for another ten minutes, from the right! Did I mention I’m about as twitchy as a meth-addled spider monkey trapped in one of those bingo-blower machines? I did mention that? Good. Because this spider money just had to lie perfectly still, on a plank too uncomfortable for The Gimp, for half an hour.
Step 15: Results! I heard the friendly tech on the phone, telling the doctor that my number — no, I don’t know which number — was 57. “What’s a normal number?” I asked, after she got off the phone. “Normal is between seven and 20.” “Oh. Mine would be higher then.”
The next step is the one I’m doing right now, where I wait for the doc to call to tell me, yes indeed, it’s time to nuke that thyroid.
In the Olden Times, they gave everybody the full dose: Usually about 400 millicuries. That’s enough to make you weak as a kitten and sick as the aforementioned junky for a day or two, but damn sure enough to kill off every last bit of thyroid tissue. Obviously, a dose like that requires a hospital stay.
These days, they only give that much to people with thyroid cancer — when it’s absolutely vital to kill off every last bit of thyroid tissue. That’s not me. No cancer here, thank you very much. My dose will be quite a bit smaller. Probably just 10-20 millicuries. I was expecting to feel a little sick for the first day or two, but apparently not. The tech suggested, since my radioactive self won’t be able to spend much time with the family (and certainly not much time all in a row), that I “go for a hike or cycling or something.”
While I might not hike, that still sounds nicer than the quality time I’d been expecting to spend kneeling in front of the toilet.
The results aren’t immediate, but I suspect once the RAI is actually in my thyroid, then I’ll be able to take the PTU pills to make me feel better, that I can’t take now. After about six weeks, the RAI will reach its maximum effect, and after about six months it’ll all be over. I’ve been waiting almost five years for just this, and can’t wait to get it started.
But the question really bugging me is: How the hell soon can I get back to my got-dam coffee?