Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Journey With Thyroid Cancer :: Treatment, Isolation, & Unexpected Blessings

I am nearing the end of my "isolation" period, after receiving treatment for my thyroid cancer. Soon I will be able to hug my husband, children, family, and smother them in kisses. This isolation period has really given me time to think about life and realize how precious it is.

Let me back up a little though, to the day of treatment, March 23rd to be exact. I was not prepared for just how difficult that day would be. I guess it would be normal to be very emotional on a day like this, but I just had not thought it through. It started when each of my children, in turn, gave me a hug and kiss when they went off to school and said "Good bye mommy".

The second that they left my bedroom, I completely lost it!!  I cried like a baby. Part of my emotions came from the fact that I would be away from my children for awhile. I treasure their hugs, kisses and snuggles so much and knew it would be hard to be without them for a few days. I believe that the bigger part of these emotions came from the realization of how long and hard this process has been for me and my family, and that I was FINALLY ready to begin the final step that would kill this cancer and allow me to move on to a healthy new future.

Thyroid cancer has provided me with an exercise in patience. I think it would have been easier if there had been no waiting, and if I could have just had surgery, moved right into treatment, and had been able to get it done and over. That is not how thyroid cancer works, especially when you end up with two surgeries, as I did. There were weeks of waiting in between each step of the process and that took a toll both mentally and physically.  I have always been pretty mentally tough and competitive by nature, so during all this time, I held it together pretty well. Sure, I had little moments of crying and feeling sorry for myself, but on March 23rd, the reservoir of emotions all came tumbling out. It was a good cry, and it was needed. I realize now, how important it was to let my emotions out, as it helped release everything that had built up inside of me over the last couple of months, and also validated what a tough journey this has been.

The first step on treatment day was a full body scan.

The scan was a little unnerving because I would finally find out if the cancer had spread anywhere beyond my thyroid gland.

My particular cancer, follicular carcinoma, has a tendency to spread to lymph nodes, lungs and bones. Had my cancer spread? I had anxiously waited two months to hear the answer to that question. In the afternoon, when I went back for the actual treatment, I received the wonderful news that the only place where they could see any residual thyroid tissue was in my neck, which was expected. There was no evidence of spread.  Now, the job of the Radio Active Iodine Treatment, which followed, would be to seek out and destroy all the remaining thyroid cells.

The treatment itself was simple. A Nuclear Medicine doctor brought in a special lead cylinder which contained a small radioactive capsule, tiny but powerful.

The doctor placed the pill in my mouth, gave me a few last minute instructions and soon I was out the door........I was officially radioactive!

My husband was instructed to stay as far away as he could. How far away can you get in an elevator? On the quicker than usual ride home, I sat in the farthest back seat, on the opposite side from Joe. He drove me to my parents home because I needed to keep my radioactive body away from my small children who would not understand the strict isolation.

I needed my own room, my own bed, my own bathroom and so I returned to my childhood bedroom.

Most of the radioactivity passes out of the body though body fluids in the first three days. I was required to drink lots of water to speed up this process and this meant frequent trips to the bathroom where I had to flush the toilet twice after each use.

The isolation itself, was not so bad because I soon became pretty nauseated, and that, combined with being achy and tired, made it easy to want to be by myself in a quiet room. During the good moments, I enjoyed having "facetime" with my boys and receiving "virtual" hugs and kisses.

Starting on the fourth day of isolation, I began to take short walks with my loves, with them walking a few feet behind me. I won't take a nice walk for granted anymore.

On that same day, I took my first dose of thyroid medication. I have never been so happy to take any drug before. This little pill will be responsible for making me feel a whole lot better in three to four weeks.

I have found another unexpected blessing in all of this. I have been fortunate enough to spend this isolation time with my parents and it has been such a treat to be their little girl again in my childhood home. The only thing missing in my room, is a rope down the middle with my dear sister on the other side, a favorite memory of when we shared this room and had territorial wars:)  I have had many long talks with my mom as she stood the required distance away in the doorway and she has taken care of me as any loving mother would. With modern technology, I have even had special texting sessions with my dad, while in the same house, from our own bedrooms, like the ones that follows:

 Still finding things to's to unexpected blessings!


  1. Dear Anna, welcome to the Survivors' Club! Cancer does change how you see life - for the rest of your life! Like motherhood, only if you've been there, done that, can you really understand. God bless your heart and your family. God bless Joe for being such a rock for you and the kids. Being the caregiver is a whole other kind of purgatory! Love you.

  2. Betsy Ryan DalpinoMarch 29, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    Anna, you rock!!! I am so glad you are almost done with the isolation and cancer. You have kicked cancer's butt and that is incredible!!!! You are amazing and I am blessed to have you as a sister-in-law. Take it easy and get home quick tomorrow. Love you lots!!!!!

  3. I'm so glad to hear that all has gone so well . . . not easy, I know. You will LOVE LOVE LOVE being back home with your family - although it sounds like your parents' place was the best possible refuge while you needed it, too. I've been pulling for you - great to have an update! Hang in there . . . and enjoy every minute of getting back to living a more normal life again! Hugs.

  4. Wow, what a journey you are on! I am happy you have such a loving and supportive family to keep your head above water. I will keep you in my prayers.

  5. Anna you are such an inspiration! You have always been so strong and the way you have handled this process has been wonderful. I remember that rope in the room and spending time at your house. Sending lots of love your way!!!


  7. So glad you are almost done...I can imagine your relief that this is over and you are now on thyroid replacement looking forward to feeling better again. Lots of good wishes glad to have met you and happy to have shared your difficult journey

  8. Anna - Your story has been so inspiring; it makes us all stop to appreciate life's everyday treasures. Thank you for keeping us posted on your journey. I know each and everyone of your family members can't wait to smother you right back with hugs and kisses. Much love to you and God Bless!

  9. Anna i am so glad you are doing better and i truly appreciate you taking the time to post this, i was diagnosied in December when i had my first surgery and like you had to go through 2 surgeries and am going for my body scan and radioactive treatment next week and all i can think about are my twin boys and yes how much they love to snuggle and hug and for me not to be able to get that from them is really making me cry as i type this message to you. But in the end it all turned out well letting me know that although it seems really hard rite now it will all be over soon. Thanks Again- Vida

  10. The first picture looks so cute. Hope you're doing better. Wishing you all the strength! God bless!!

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