Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Could You Repeat That?

It's coming up on my twelfth anniversary of both my college graduation and my thyroid cancer surgery. For the most part, when I think about that time period, I remember more what happened a year later that became one of my more embarrassing moments in life. At least these days it just makes me laugh.

The treatment for thyroid cancer is an extremely high dosage of radioactive iodine, given in capsule form. The iodine searches out and destroys thyroid tissue. It's a selective treatment, unlike chemotherapy. You're in isolation for a least 24 hours because of the radioactivity. Of course, then you're told you can go home, but you can't sleep in the same bed with anyone for a week, nor be around pregnant women or children for that time period. You also can't get pregnant for a year on the off chance this stuff fries fetuses brains.

Which is also why insurance companies require a negative pregnancy test before they will approve the treatment. (yeah, I know--"approve"--don't get me started on insurance companies!)

I went in the day before the treatment to get the test done. The nurse filled three vials and seemed to take forever. I almost passed out when I looked down and saw the needle hanging out of my arm. I can handle blood from cuts and stuff, but the sight of a needle and a vial attached to me tends to cause the vapors. I remember her asking me if I was hoping for a positive result. I looked at her like she was nuts! No! If it does come back positive, somebody better contact the pope!

So, the next morning, my dad drove me to the hospital to get me checked in for my overnight stay. That's pretty much what it was. Because of the radiation levels, I wasn't allowed visitors. Nor was I allowed to even eat off regular plates. Everything that came into the room had to be disposable. Which meant no books, no nothing. Just me and TV for 24 hours.

This being my second time for the treatment (the first time was just a few weeks after my thyroidectomy. This second treatment was because they had found some tissue had grown back.), I was pretty much an old hand at how this should work. My regular oncologist was out of town, so he had referred me to one of his colleagues. When I came out of the bathroom from changing into my hospital gown, he and the radio-med tech were standing around loudly asking each other where the pregnancy test was.

And of course, there's my dad standing in the room. I think he pretty much immediately started trying to find his happy place, because these two idiots did not ask the question once, they did it multiple times. And you know how dads feel about being reminded their little girls are actually women. I was mortified. How many more times could they say "pregnancy test?" I swear people could hear them out in the hall.

Finally, in order to hold onto SOME dignity, I asked them if it could quickly be done again. What do you know? It could! So a nurse was called, blood was drawn, and a half hour later, guess what? I'm still not pregnant!

As soon as the meds were on board, Dad fled for the hills and I tried desperately to forget that my name had ever been connected with such a test. It's funny to me now, but when you're standing in your bare feet wearing nothing but a hospital gown in front of your dad and two guys you don't know, that's a different story.

Don't worry, Dad, I haven't had a reason to take such a test again since then.

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