Friday, February 1, 2008

Where I become hot, but not hawt

continued from here

Since my surgery, I had been unable to raise my voice. To call my children in for dinner, I'd step out on the deck, tuck my chin in an attempt to lower my voice further, and then ina booming deep voice call out their names and say, "Dinner!" My voice was beyond husky, it was straight up masculine.

I'd had my thyroid out on October 4th and by October 26th my TSH was measuring 57 (extremely high and doubling every week). This meant that I was sufficiently hypothyroid to undergo my wholebody Radioactive Iodine Scan. I had been told that I would still be able to breastfeed Ellie after the radioactivity had left my bloodstream (40 days). One of my friends had even offered to take Ellie and continue to nurse her for me so that she wouldn't have to bottle feed in the meantime (that is a true friend).

But when I double-checked this with my oncologist, she informed me that I would not be able to breastfeed Ellie anymore after taking even the small dose of Radioactive Iodine (RAI). My RAI scan dose was scheduled for November 4th, the scan and hospital admission for the larger RAI treatment dose for November 7th. She also mentioned that I could possibly increase my risks for breast cancer by still producing breast milk when I received the large dose and to start taking antihistamines (benadryl) to help dry up my breast milk.

Thinking back, I can't believe I went ahead with the treatment so soon after having Ellie. I was going to have to be away from her for 3 weeks in order to minimize exposure to her thyroid and she was barely two months old. Even more than not being able to nurse her, the separation from her tore at my heart.

On the morning of the 4th of November, I nursed Ellie for the last time. I looked down at her face, at her little fingers grasping my thumb, listening to her satisfied swallows and wondering how these next three weeks were going to be without her. I handed her to my mother and drove myself to the hospital to take my scan dose.

When I arrived, they wanted to know when my last menstrual cycle had been. I told them I had just had a baby and hadn't had one. They insisted on drawing blood for a pregnancy test, even though I told them there was no possible way I was pregnant. I reminded them that one has to have intercourse for that to occur and according to memory that hadn't happened since before her arrival. Because when you are a Franken-neck in terrible pain, drained from childbirth and the rigors of parenting and feeding a newborn baby, it is all you can do to collapse into bed at the end of the day, nevermind being more intimate than cuddling. But it didn't matter and of course, the test came back negative.

I was given a pill to take, a cup of water to swallow, and a page of precautions to follow. I went home and fell into bed. I went through the pain of abruptly stopping nursing. I had tried to gently phase out breastfeeding Ellie, but as soon as she took the bottle, I would have a hard time and nurse her again. To say I was ambivalent about my decision to go ahead with treatment is an understatement.

But go ahead with it - I did. When I arrived to take my dose, I was led up to the 6th floor of the hospital to a room tucked in the corner by the emergency stairs and an adjacent empty room. I hadn't eaten anything in case of nausea. It would be considered a nuclear cleanup if I "tossed my cookies." The radiologist informed me that there hadn't been enough RAI to put in pill form, so I would have to sip mine. It was like drinking flat alka seltzer - metallic and nauseating. I was given a does of Phenergan to combat the nausea and told that I couldn't eat for a few more hours. That metallic taste stayed with me for the next few days.

I had brought needlepoint to work on and a magazine to read, but mostly I laid around and watched TV because it was brainless and I was so very tired. I remained nauseous my entire stay in the hospital and the feeling was not helped by the fact that everything they brought me to eat had to stay in my room the entire time. I sat there in my room among the stacks of hazardous waste - queen of the nukes. My phone was covered with a plastic bag so that the moisture from my breath wouldn't contaminate the mouthpiece. The radiology tech taped a line on the floor 12 feet from where I sat, and anyone who crossed it had to wear disposable booties that they removed before leaving. A bright yellow Hazardous Materials/Radioactive Warning sign was taped to my door, no one could be in my presence for more than 20 minutes a day. That meant the nurses only popped their heads in to deposit a tray of food on the table next to the door, and I wasn't allowed to get my tray until they had left. The techs came in to take my temperature and blood pressure periodically (I wondered if the other patients knew they were sharing medical devices with me).

Twice a day, morning and night, a radiology tech would bring in a geiger counter and a measuring tape. He would take a measurement of the rads I was emitting at 3 and 12 feet away. I filled the intermittent time with taking numerous showers, drinking quarts of water (flushing the toilet 3 times each time I used it), and obssessively washing my hands.

Yes, I was queen of my own tiny kingdom - the corner room of the 6th floor.


Summer said...

Your description of your last nursing session broke my heart. Breastfeeding really develops a different kind of bond. So tender and precious. I can't imagine having to give it up like that and leaving your precious newborn for 3 weeks.

Am'n2deep said...

I'm with summer, that must have been sooooo hard!

That whole Queen of isolation experience sounds lonely and miserable. That's some amazing strength you've got girl.

And if this is at b.'s hospital--I could be wrong, but I think I'm aware of that corner room. Is it a room that has it's own ventilation system? Big room as far as hospital rooms go? If so, my family spent our last Thanksgiving weekend together in that room shortly after my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

compulsive writer said...

Your story becomes both more heartwrenching and more amazing at every installment.

Thanks again for sharing.

Heffalump said...

So are you back now?
I didn't get my fiction friday done this week...I am behind. I will work on it!

Corrie said...

heff - Yes, I am back! It wasn't too hard not to write, just hard not to read.

Blogger has been having trouble with comments lately - it trashed a couple of mine and then crashed my computer. So what I said was:

Summer - it was really hard, but she and my mom are tight.

Am'n - same room. I've been in both back rooms at the ends of the halls. They are big rooms, but somehow I felt claustrophobic back there all by my lonesome. Every time the nurse would close the door, I'd get up and crack it.

cw - it gets better, I'll will try to tone down the heartwrenching.

your next door neighbor said...

Never ceases to amaze me what we are called upon to do. Your story makes me wish I'd been there more for my mom.

Corrie said...

neighbor - I suppose our moms need us too sometimes. I hope having gone through this I'll be more sensitive to the needs of others going through their own hard times (as opposed to being myopic and only aware of myself)