Monday, March 06, 2006

bride of thyroid

And now there are only four days to go.

I just got back from the hospital about thirty minutes ago, following one of those harrowing ordeals you can find only at a medical establishment. In this case, the doctor was barely involved, though; it was the nuclear medicine technician. Kind of sounds like I'm under Homer Simpson's medical care, doesn't it?

Yes, it was the "Stand here and don't move a muscle drill," followed by the "Lie here and don't move a muscle for the next forty minutes" drill. I never knew that holding still could be so draining, but perhaps that's why I always got more exhausted at my desk jobs as a news editor than I did as a reporter on the go, at The Packet.

The first drill involved standing with my throat up against a long metal tube painted the sort of color green that was outlawed in 1950 because of the mental cruelty it inflicted upon hospital patients. This was to measure the exact amounts of radiation being emited by the thyroid tissues left after my Dec. 8 surgery, as some tissues always are left behind. The low-dosage radiation, you no doubt remember, came from the radioactive iodine pill I was given Friday morning.

For the second examination, the technician, whom for simplicity's sake I will call "Homer," had me lie down on a narrow bunk before strapping my arms to my sides and telling me to hold still during the rest of the exam. This was performed with a gamma camera; alas, judging by the number of people wandering in and out of the room, casually eating doughnuts and talking about whatever it is they were talking about, all without the benefits of Hazmat suits or radiation protection, I can only assume that no gamma rays were released during this portion of my exam. I have even less chance of becoming the Incredible Hulk than previously expected. Similarly, my chances of making the evolutionary leap from custodian to supergenius (a trail blazed by Samuel Stern, aka The Leader, one of the Hulk's nemeses in the comics) also are unlikely. I can only assume the gamma camera measured the radiation coming from my neck.

The chief recollection I have from this period, which I believe lasted more than 40 minutes and possibly longer than an hour involved noticing that the ceiling tiles had hideous brown stains. These in turn reminded me of my old job and the fastidious care our employers took of the building to ensure an aesthetically pleasing and mold-free workplace. Such pleasant associations combined with a maddening itch on my chin while my arms were strapped to my side helped to make this a thoroughly pleasant and painless experience. It was rather like being able to visit a 1950s mad scientist lab, from inside the movie. Any moment, I thought, Dr. Frankenstein will send his hunchbacked little assistant in here to remove my brain, and I'll break free and end his reign of terror over the village.

Igor never showed up, but the gamma camera was painted the same hideous green as the telescope-looking metal tube I'd had to stand next to earlier. I'm sure there is a law against that color, there has to be.

After it was all over, Homer released me from the gamma camera, unstrapped my arms and told me I could get up and wait in the waiting room. In truth, I had nearly fallen asleep after closing my eyes to avoid staring directly into the ceiling light, so I almost fell onto the floor. And then I got lost on my way to the waiting room. I'm sure it was only my imagination that led me to hear Homer say, "His brain was too small, master, but look, I found you one that belonged to Abby Normal."

Afterward, the doctor showed me the gamma pictures of my throat and the rest of my body. There was a blackish star-shaped mess where my thyroid used to be, which as noted before, was the remaining thyroid and presumably some cancer tissue. I'll be going back on Friday for the iodine dosage that will destroy the thyroid cells, while my wife and the girls are safely off to visit relatives to avoid incidental radiation.

During that time, I'm supposed to drink a lot of fluids, flush three times whenever I go to the bathroom, and have the option of wearing disposable gloves if I think I'm going to sweat a lot, since sweat and other bodily fluids are how the iodine will be secreted from my body. Sweat seems unlikely this time of year, especially when I'm cold all the time without a thyroid. All the same, I'll wash the bed covers thoroughly before my wife comes home.

And of course, I'm due to return to the hospital tomorrow at the same time for more picture-taking excitement with green equipment.

Betcha this time they concentrate on my brain.

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