Homeward Bound

Today is an auspicious day, not least because it’s my mum-in-law’s birthday – Many Happy Returns Maureen – and of course, it’s a pretty cool calendar date, 11.11.11 but it’s also the day I get to go take my radioactivity on tour!

I wake up bright and early and check my facebook. I see that Mo’s family scattered her ashes yesterday. I have a little secret smile for her. I guess she’s finally come to the end of her journey. The weather in Scotland was apparently terrible, but the sun shone for the whole hour of Mo’s ceremony. Enough said.

So after my little sojourn on Facebook and Mo moment, I have a shower and wash my hair. This is no mean feat in the basic hospital bathroom and I make the best of a bad situation with my hair and my limited selection of styling products and equipment. This is possibly my finest radioactive moment, when I get measured with the Geiger counter and get my body scan to see how and where the radioactive iodine is going. I want to look the part!

I’m summoned down to nuclear medicine at about 8.30. I’m all ready and raring to go. When I get there, they give me a big doorstep of a piece of dry white bread (that’s so not iodine free!) and a cup of water to “clear my throat.” It’s pretty gross to be honest but I’m too excited about the Geiger counter measurement to take too much notice! They measure me while I’m consuming the said bread and water – how’s that for multi tasking?! I’m genuinely stoked about the Geiger counter thing, I put it down to my overly zealous interest in “Z for Zacariah” when I read it in High School! Anyway, I score a 5 which I’m pretty happy about. If you’re 8 or over, they don’t let you out of hospital, so I figure I’m still radioactive enough to have some superpowers but not enough to be atomic and dangerous!

Then I settle on the long bed for the scan. I wish I was medically informed enough to tell you what kind of scan it is but I have no idea of the name of it. The machine itself is huge, almost as big as the room it’s in, but the panel that actually does the scanning is no bigger than a dinner tray. It’s positioned directly above you and pretty much in your face, literally. That’s how it starts, to focus on the thyroid which makes sense as this is the hot spot, literally. It then moves from your head to toes and scans your whole body, very, very slowly. It’s not noisy or claustrophobic as say, an MRI which I’ve had before and was thoroughly unpleasant. I didn’t like that one bit but this experience is just a bit boring and a tad tedious. The hardest bit is staying still for the whole half hour, usually I can’t sit still for 2 minutes, so this is quite a challenge! Anyway, at the end of the scan, old mate Lucien, the mad scientist doctor comes in to say that I did good on the scan but they’re experiencing some technical difficulties and they’re not sure if the scan is successful… I might have to do It again! Aarrgh!

David has already come to fetch me and my bags  but as there is no knowing if and when I will have another scan, it seems a bit dumb for us both to sit around and twiddle our thumbs especially as we aren’t even supposed to be in close contact anyway! Gallant as always, he takes my bags back home and then heads off to work while I wait for news. The good thing is that the Endo had been and gone and leaves me a prescription for Thyroxin.  I am pretty stoked about that!  I don’t have to wait too long before Lucien returns with good news. Firstly, no need for another scan – yay! Secondly, scan is “reassuring,” with some take up in the neck (as we’d expect – I do have thyroid cancer after all) but little else.  I’m sure we’ll get more detailed info when I go back to Anne my Endocrinologist in a couple of weeks but it’s a good start. Lucien and I walk out to the lifts together, and he asks me if I’ve glowed yet. I tell him  not yet and I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t lit up but I’m hoping that it’s a slow release thing or maybe as my mate Stace says, the glow can only be seen by others. If the latter is true, I say to Lucien, I’ve had no way to test the theory because I’ve been in isolation but I’ll check with David tonight. He gives me one of his mad scientist smiles, whether this is because he thinks I’m mad as a cut snake or because he knows something I don’t, I’m not sure! But I hope it’s the latter!

It’s pretty liberating walking out of the hospital and my first stop is the pharmacy for that Thyroxin where the pharmacist tells me “you’ll feel like a new woman!” in a matter of days! Bring it on! The first thing I do when I get home, is take one of those tablets!

Being home is a major adrenalin rush, I set myself up in the spare room, wash all my contaminated clothes, and have a shower but… I’m still radioactive! I can’t knock the RNS Hospital, my cosy little quarters there and that balcony with it’s awesome views but you know what, the old adage is true, there’s no  place like home!

I thought  I’d better check in with the insurance company vis a vis our travel insurance claim and was stoked to the max to hear they’ve decided to cough up the cash. We’ve just got to fine tune the details for the flights to the UK and Perth and then we can settle and put that baby to bed. It’s a pretty good feeling.

So exactly 5 weeks from diagnosis… we’ve come a long way baby! Surgery finished – check.  Radioactive treatment done – check.  Travel insurance claim(almost) sorted – check. On Thyroxin and getting my mojo back – check.  Ticking all these things off the list is really mentally, and I guess, physically liberating, and each time we get over one of these hurdles, we’re getting closer to the finish line, at least for this part of the journey.  It’s like the end of a chapter, and as I get myself  back on track, so a new chapter will begin.

I had a craving for something healthy, home cooked and believe it or not, iodine free! Now I think about it, I did feel quite queasy during my incarceration and in hindsight, I think it was more because of the hospital food than the radioactivity! The food there looked and tasted as if all the goodness, colour and taste had been surgically removed from it – even thinking about it now kind of grosses me out! I made myself some healthy and delicious Tomato and Kumara Rice Salad which really hit the spot! It was so nice to eat something home cooked and healthy! By then I was pretty pooped and went to try out my new bed in my new room where I slept all afternoon!

When I woke up, I was still exhausted but I figured I’d never sleep at night if I slept in the day. After all, I’m not a possum, I’m a person!  Busied myself with chores until David came home and then we cooked our separate dinners , ate in separate rooms and chilled out on separate sofas! Although my treatment has been painless, and really rather relaxing, I think the biggest challenge lies ahead as David and I live together but separately, albeit for a week only.

It’s not the not sleeping together or even the different bathrooms that freaks me out, but not being able to sit close, touch each other,  eat together at the table or have a hug is a bit of a toughie. I didn’t think it would be a problem , but it’s amazing  how much you take for granted, and how good a hug, or a touch, or a bit of getting up close and personal with someone you love can make you feel. On the plus side, it’s only temporary and we certainly won’t be taking each other for granted when the enforced separation is over! Besides, I’m sure David will certainly enjoy not having to fight for his share of the sheets! That’s his own personal bonus! In the big scheme of things it’s just a bit inconvenient, and ultimately, just like all the other challenges we’ve faced so far, it’s only going to make our relationship stronger and bring us even closer together.