Thyroid Cancer - Part 5: Full Body Scan

(This is part 5 of a series. Click here to read part 1)

Last week I went to the hospital to take a radioactive pill. (See here for more on that.) Over the next five days I read, did some crafts, binge watched Merlin on Netflix and reveled in solitude. (That being said, it was nice to come out on Saturday and be able to interact normally with my family again. Many thanks to those who brought meals, gifts or called to chat during my time in seclusion!) This morning I went back to the hospital so they could see the results of my taking that pill.

The check-in process at the hospital was very easy since this was essentially the second half of the same procedure. The concierge at the front desk just checked my name off his list and sent me to the waiting area while he called the folks in nuclear medicine to let them know I was there. Just a few minutes later the same guy who gave me the pill came out and took me back to his domain where we met another guy who took charge of this part of the procedure.

First, they had me remove anything I was wearing that had much metal in it. Then they had me lie down on a plank of a bed sticking out of a machine like a tongue from a mouth. There was a pillow - not for my head so much as for my neck and upper back so my neck area was well exposed. They gave me another pillow to put under my knees and put a band around my feet to keep them together and from moving. Then they put a heavy blanket wrap thing across my torso, had me lay my arms to my sides, and then they wrapped the blanket up over my arms to keep them in place. (This bed was so narrow; my arms would have hung down off the sides if they hadn't been supported by this blanket wrap!) In the end I was surprisingly comfortable. I was told the full body scan would take about 35 minutes, and then they would do another 5 minute scan of just my neck area. 

And so it began.

The machine very very slowly sucked me into its mouth and the top jaw came down until it was only an inch from my face. I closed my eyes and tried to relax. I'm not a fan of closed in spaces but with my eyes closed, I was okay. I've done an MRI before and survived. This was similar, but at least this was quiet. I thought about trying to take a nap but I knew that wasn't going to happen. So I started reciting stuff I had memorized - not just rattling it off, but paying attention to each word and phrase. By the time I moved on from the Walrus and the Carpenter to Jabberwocky, the machine had moved towards my feet so when I cracked my eyelids I could see the ceiling again. The technicians in the room were talking softly. A lady came into the room and they talked for a bit before she left. Some other people came in briefly and left again. And before long the machine beeped and they told me they were done with the big scan. 

They offered to let me sit up before they did the shorter scan of just my neck area, but I figured I was feeling fine; they might as well finish the job. As the top jaw once again came down to within an inch of my face, I closed my eyes and started counting heart beats. I was somewhere in the second minute (supposing each heart beat was a second) when there was a beep and the technician told me the computer had an error they had to deal with. So back out I came and this time I got off the bed, stretched and walked around a bit while they rebooted the computer and waited for it to start up again. Eventually they were ready to go again and this time I made it well into my fourth set of sixty heart beats before the machine beeped to say it was done. 

Afterwards, I asked about what exactly they were looking for with this scan. They told me that the radioactive iodine has a half life of eight days, and I took the pill eight days ago, so they were looking for the remnants of that radioactivity. (I'll continue to be slightly radioactive for a while longer, but now it's down to levels that aren't dangerous to the people around me any more.) The surgery I had done couldn't remove every tiny scrap of thyroid tissue, so they had given me a large dose so it would target those remaining scraps and let the doctor know where those bits were. Later, smaller doses of radiation might be required, but probably not big ones like this one again. They also told me that my doctor should have the results later today or tomorrow. 

So that's that. On Saturday I picked up a prescription for replacement thyroid hormones and started taking them on Sunday so hopefully in the next few weeks my energy level (and my weight - I've gained ten pounds in the last month!) will return to normal. 


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