Saturday, January 14, 2006

Life After Half-Life

I’m home. I’m exhausted from my ordeal. I’m happy to be able to use my own computer once again. The only real side-effect I have experienced is extremely sore salivary glands, sort of like someone punched me in both jaws.

This morning I woke up early, despite the fact that I had been up several times during the night to drink water, pee, and suck candy – the requirements for getting my numbers down to the point where I could go home. The morning nurse Candy called to tell me that she would be meeting me at my door to give me my breakfast tray. Most of the nurses were only to happy to shove in my meal tray and literally run back down the hall, one of them actually telling me that she couldn’t step over a particular line. I respected their fear and simply reached out to get my food. My new pal Lindsey from the night before who obviously considers himself impervious to radiation and who was coming in on his day off just for me, called from his car to tell me he was heading in from Landover and would be there in about 20 minutes. I got my final shower, hoping to rinse away as much of the radioactive residue as I could from my skin and hair follicles. At precisely 9 AM Lindsey appeared, put his measuring tape to my belly button, stepped back 3 feet, and measured me at 7.2, proclaiming “You’re good to go girl!” I said a big affirming YESSSSS! We discussed the quarantine of my pajamas and my book for 3 months, and he parted with a loud “GO SKINS!” I think Lindsey, the Radiation Safety Tech, had something on his mind other than the work he was going to have to do to decontaminate my room and ready it for its next inhabitant. I quickly changed into the clothes I had worn into the hospital, which had been kept isolated in the closet, and when my husband arrived, I simply walked out the door, not saying goodbye to anyone. What a weird way to leave. I hopped into the back seat as far away as possible from my husband and said “Take me to Starbucks for the latte I have been wanting for the last 5 weeks!”

It’s going to take some adjustment at home to live in the same house with my husband and my 2 big slobbery dogs and simply be a shadow passing around their lives for the next few days. I asked my husband to buy some latex gloves so that I can touch common things like the refrigerator and not worry him. The irony of this is that no one has been able to tell me one possible outcome of a person or my dogs being exposed to me! The medical profession tends to cover its ass at all cost. But I will play the game so as not to worry anyone. This means basically that I have my own dishes, my own brush and detergent for washing them, my own bathroom, my own bedroom, my own office, which are all mine until mid-week, when the ban is suddenly lifted as suddenly as it was imposed. The weird diet is over, so I can gorge myself on dairy, fish, and salt. But most importantly, I can convince my body that I have a thyroid again by resuming my daily dose of Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid hormone. So even though I hate the isolation from the people and animals that I love, everything else about life is becoming normal again.

I woke up today planning the letter that I intend to write to Washington Hospital Center. My main objective is to spare other people the unnecessary confusion and the extreme anxiety I have felt because of the many unknowns and the unfortunate interactions with some of the people who have been in this drama. On the other hand, I intend to give well-deserved credit mostly to people who are not doctors, who are paid hourly rates to do sometimes menial jobs, but who seem to have taken the course in bedside manner that so many of the professionals obviously skipped. I want to offer myself as a personal point of contact for people like me who have questions about what is going to happen. I may even write something about this from the patient’s perspective, which will be quite different from the book on thyroid cancer published by the doctors.

This process has taught me a lot about myself – about how I handle scary situations, about how I deal with a lack of control, about just how tough my body actually is. It has taught me to value highly a respect for the individual that goes a long way to making any medical process bearable.

It has also showed me how important the Blogger community is in my life. In addition to words of support from old friends and new friends, I received comments from perfect strangers who it turns out were reading my Blog and had things to tell me. The miraculous discovery of a keyboard in the hospital was absolutely the thing that kept me sane and allowed me to do what I seem to like best to do these days – write and read on DCBlogs!


Blogger Kate said...

Hurray, Yippee, Huzzah!

Am so delighted you got to go home today. Reya & I will raise a glass to you tonight. Next time you can raise yours with us.

Much affection,


3:45 PM  

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