Thyroid Therapy

A week ago Monday, we went down to Kansas City to KU Medical Hospital for my thyroid treatment, radioactive iodine. Here’s a little bit of info from the Mayo Clinic website about this treatment:

“With this therapy, you take radioactive iodine, or radioiodine, by mouth. Because the thyroid needs iodine to produce hormones, it takes up the radioiodine, which destroys the overactive thyroid cells over time. This causes your thyroid gland to shrink, and problems lessen gradually, usually over several weeks to several months.

Radioiodine therapy may increase your risk of new or worsened symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy. This side effect is usually mild and temporary, but the therapy may not be recommended if you already have moderate to severe eye problems.

Other side effects may include tenderness in the neck and a temporary increase in thyroid hormones. Men may experience a temporary reduction in testosterone levels. Radioiodine therapy isn’t used for treating pregnant or nursing women. Radioiodine not taken up into the thyroid gland is excreted in your urine and saliva.

Because this treatment causes thyroid activity to decline, you’ll likely need treatment later to supply your body with normal amounts of thyroid hormones.”

Harland was up at 5am to check the cows and feed the barn cats. None of the remaining cows had calved in the night so they were ok. I was on doctor’s orders to fast, no food or liquids. My tummy was rumbling. Harland came back from chores, changed clothes and we hit the road about 6:30am.

We got to KU Med about 8:30. We checked in with the radiology department, waited for a while, and then were called back into the exam room. We had a long conversation with a very informative radiology doctor about Graves disease and thyroid issues. At some point they asked me if there was any chance of me being pregnant. HA!  They said they wouldn’t do the treatment if I was. I assured them that we had infertility problems and that it was highly unlikely that I was. But they had me go down to the lab to give a urine sample and then we went back up to radiology to wait on the results. Not surprisingly I was not pregnant.

So pretty soon I was called back in to what looked like a lab. Wearing gloves, a lab tech took a gray capsule containing radioactive iodine and put it in a little cup.  He told me to take it without touching the capsule, and then gave me a cup of water to drink. Then he ushered me quickly out of the lab and through the waiting room and out into the hall. I had been given instructions that I was not to go within 3 feet on anyone for the first 2 days, and then 2 feet of anyone for the next 2 days.

Harland and I walked out of the hospital and into the parking garage, Harland in the lead and me following a very respectable 10 foot distance behind. I was also keeping my distance from everyone else too. I must have appeared like some sort of germaphobe. When we got to the truck, I sat in the back seat on the opposite side of the vehicle from Harland.

Our first stop was to eat lunch at a fast food restaurant. I wasn’t able to eat anything for 2 hours after taking the radioactive pill, so I got something to drink and watched Harland eat while I sat at a different table away from him. When we got home around 2:30 in the afternoon, I was finally able to eat something, then I spent the rest of the day upstairs in the spare bedroom. Harland got out his trusty geiger counter and found that he could detect my radiation from a couple rooms away. I slept upstairs that night.

The next day I stayed home from work again and Harland avoided me like the plague. I had a bit of a headache and was a little nauseous but otherwise felt fine. The next day I was safe to be around radiation-wise according to the doctor’s instructions, and was finally was able to go back to work.

It’s been over a week now since the treatment, and yesterday my heart rate at rest was 72!!!!  That’s the lowest it’s been since last fall.  At it’s worst back in January, it was 140 beats per minute at rest and I felt like crap – exhausted all the time, weak, unable to sleep. But yesterday afternoon I walked a mile on my break, and when I got home from work I ate supper, transplanted my baby tomato seedlings into pots, watered the asparagus bed, and transplanted a peony plant. And when I went to bed I was actually drowsy and went to sleep easily for the first time in months. No laying awake for hours feeling jittery and listening to my heart pounding in my ears.

I’ll need to get bloodwork done every 30 days to monitor my thryoid hormone levels for the next few months, and probably go on replacement thyroid meds which I’ll need to take for the rest of my life.  But I’m fine with that. I’m very fortunate to have a health problem that can be treated.

So I’m feeling pretty good these days. Not 100% back to my old self, but getting better each day.