So here is your crash course in the thyroid and in the radio-active iodine treatment I received.
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in your neck. It has two parts (lobes) similar to the way the heart and lungs have two parts. The thyroid controls hormones, metabolism, and other functions. Basically from what I understand it is a regulator for a lot of the different processes and functions in your body. The thyroid needs iodine to function, hence the reason all of you need to have iodine in your diet. When the thyroid is not functioning properly (or is absent) the pituitary gland produces a hormone called TsH that is supposed to encourage the thyroid to do its job. Over time if there is no thyroid, or it is not functioning properly, the TsH levels get really high. This makes you tired, forgetful, moody, depressed, etc…
Because the thyroid is a gland and not an organ, they can’t just go in and pop the whole thing out without causing major damage to other parts of your neck and throat. Even the best surgeons (which mine is pretty amazing) always have to leave behind some remnants of thyroid cells.
After having surgery to remove the thyroid and the tumor that they found, it is necessary to wait until your TsH reaches a certain level before receiving the radioactive iodine. (Not sure why this is.) So, during the waiting period, you feel pretty crummy and it only gets worse as time goes on. When it is time for treatment you eat a low iodine diet for a week prior to ensure that any remaining thyroid cells will be starving for some iodine by the time you give it to them. This encourages those cells to absorb more of the radiated iodine. The idea is that by starving these cells, as soon as some iodine is introduced into the diet the cells will suck it up, and since the iodine is radiated, it kills those cells from the inside out.
Iodine is found in a lot of foods, and it is unknown to the consumer whether many foods have iodine or how much because you don’t know if the salt that was used is iodized (which means it contains iodine) and iodine content is not listed on most products for some reason. Since I originally was going to have the treatment last Friday instead of this past Monday, I started eating low iodine on 3/12.
- no products from the sea at all including sea salt
- no iodized salt
- no dairy
- no lunch meat
- no cured meats such as bacon
- no store brought breads.cracker.rolls. etc…
- no red dye #3
- very little spinach, broccoli, or avocado
- very little rice (basmati only)
So basically I ate fruits, salad with oil & vinegar for dressing, pasta, water and juice, and fresh meats with no added salt and water solutions. Thank goodness for Mrs. Dash seasonings which are salt free. Used in conjunction with non-iodized salt this made meals prepared at home bearable. Still, how many ways can you prepare chicken using no butter, sauce, etc…? I had to continue eating like this until the day after my treatment. (3/23)
When Tuesday came I was so happy to be able to have milk again! However, that is when the nausea kicked in. As soon as it passes I think I am ordering a pizza! At least my choices here on “the outside” will be quite a bit more than what the hospital offered.
So the radiation they gave me is very targeted as it treats the cancer from the inside as opposed to other forms of chemo or radiation that is ‘shot at you.’ I should experience very few side effects. The nausea and the soreness that I have in my lymph nodes in my neck today should be about the extent of it. I am grateful that this is all I am facing as I know it could be so much worse.
Already there have been so many instances where God has proven Himself faithful and true as we have walked this journey. He has been glorified in situations and ways that would never have been possible had this not happened to me. For that I am eternally grateful.
So now you know a little bit about what the thyroid is and does and what they did to me to make sure its gone. 🙂 Hopefully tomorrow I will start telling you about how we got from December 3rd (the day I found my tumor) until today. My greatest excitement is to share with you the miraculous ways in which the God of the entire universe has reached down His hand and directed each and every step along this journey. If not for Him, my family and would surely have fallen over the edge and lost our way a dozen times by now.
Going to venture out on to the balcony and consider meal options…