no one really knows

No one really knows, especially your doctor.  Miracles occur, sometimes like skilled surgery, but follow up treatment for this cancer is like Sherman marching through Georgia, scorched earth and hope we got it.

With papillary cancer, the treatment is radioactive ablation, short for try to kill the cancer cells, and hope the cure doesn’t cause other long term problems.

When you finish the treatment, you might be left with a metallic taste in your mouth.   How long does it last? Well it should go away, eventually.  Or your left saliva gland might not work.  Will it come back, maybe.  What about the soreness in my neck, up by my chin.  Does that mean the cancer was up in the lymph glands there too?  Not sure.

When should I come back in?  Wait six weeks, get a blood test, come in for a visit then.  I wait.  Per my plan, this battle happens on the cellular level and I am just along for the ride, so there is not much I can do.  I am eating healthily, assuming all treatments worked as expected and generally positive.  After all the doctor knows, sort of.

ding – and the winner is…

Uncertain, but I claim round one on points. I was in the depths of despair, the highest highs, but stayed with the plan:

Make decisions quickly and aggressively after reviewing the facts. Assume that I was cured and healed at each junction of waiting, Proceed pragmatically through the steps.

The last scan completed, my body dissected electronically and magically reassembled on the computer screen. It shows dark where expected, and no outliers, tumors, unexpected danger.

Once home, I popped a synthroid ( replacement thyroid hormone ) and within an hour my swollen, sore tongue,is quick and nimble.

I am left with the scar, that angry four inch curve at the base of my neck. Unlike all my other scars which make me laugh, for they boast of strength or recklessness, this one labels me tainted.

Perhaps someday it will label me a survivor.

valentine’s day

Happy Valentine’s day.  To all those of you who support me with

your thoughts, your prayers, your actions, your support, I say

you are more than friends, you are sacred.


free — almost

Seventy-two hours after swallowing two little white pills, I am allowed to come out of my self contained isolation room.  It wasn’t too bad, I didn’t get much metallic taste, still seem to have saliva ( although that may change over time ) and generally don’t feel too bad.  My stomach is still queasy, and right now, all I can keep down is a few eggs.  Fruit seems to be a problem at present.

Thanks to all who offered their well wishes and prayers. I seem to be weak as a puppy, but I hope that will change soon.

I am off for a short ride around the block, symbolic, but defiant.

I will be radioactive for up to 180 days, enough to set off alarms at airports and federal buildings, and two more days ( I will probably make it several weeks ), before I have contact with a child or pregnant woman.

Let us hope and pray there are no more chapters like this in my life.

60 hours in… freedom approaching

My stomach has been so queasy, that I was having a hard time eating anything.  I tried some milk of magnesia to no avail.  Finally in desperation Jan ( my lovely Bride ) went out and found some salt free Ezekiel bread and made me a small steak, sliced thinly.  It was delicious, and seems to have helped settle my stomach.

The neck still hurts, but isn’t unbearable. I will be glad to get this behind me.

36 hours in

I must admit, I don’t feel to well today.  I have painful swelling in my neck, and my stomach is pretty upset.  I guess this is radiation poisoning.  I hope it passes soon.

Four hours in

I find that 150 millicuries ( well measured at 145 ) gives me gas,  nuclear gas.

Am hydrating like crazy, my eyes are a bit dry, I will get a vaporizer setup.

I have a gentle metallic taste, probably from the heavy particles, but had a nice snack of fresh strawberries, dates, carrot salad with raisin and celery with unsalted peanut butter.  Delicious and savory, left at my door by my lovely wife.

I just glow with appreciation for her.


great moments in radiation

The registration line moves quickly at Edward Hospital. I stand back a bit, arms crossed, a bit grungy in my blue hoodie and jeans. I have that dry salty smell a man gets in the gym, for I have not showered yet today.

He comes up and stands immediately behind me, like we are in line for free tickets, and the closer he gets the better the resulting seats will be. I turn and give him a knowing glance, smiling through my closely cropped grey beard.

“I wouldn’t stand this close to me.” I tell him softly.

He is in his fifties like me, clean shaven, grey glasses, unlike my IT stink, he is all Naperville executive.  His eyes open and we stand man to man, my knowing glance with my slight smile, and his serious expression with wide worried eyes.

“You wouldn’t?”, he questions

Just the slightest move of my head, telling him no.

He stiffens, I can see his flesh pull away, his shoulders roll back and he slowly steps back, one, two, three until I again nod, the smallest of affirmatives and we stand at peace.

12 hours in

The radioactive I-131 should be coursing through my veins.   That means my spit, my urine, my crap are all hot.

Here are the rules, sit when you go, flush two or three times, don’t spit, don’t use your toothbrush more than two days in a row.  Keep covered. Stay localized to as few rooms as possible.

I had a bit of nausea, but that has passed.   I plan on drinking a gallon of distilled water over the course of the day.  Anything to flush that vile stuff out of my system.

Reminds me of that famous novel, “On the Beach”, in which nuclear war contaminates the air, and in Australia they wait quietly for the end to come.

This little story has a much happier ending, but it reminds me how fragile and precious life is, and how close to mortality we sometimes tread.

only 2 millicuries

There are no birds near the hospital.  People and workers stream in to work, like bees returning to the hive laden with pollen.  Somewhere nearby a garbage truck backs up, and the warning beep, beep, beep cuts the morning silence as his engine groans and rumbles.

I walk through the lot, the only one not seeking a close nearby spot on such a cold morning.  Each soft breath exhaled through my nose leaves a white trail as warm moisture and cold dryness intersect.

Once inside they say, “You’re early”.

“Would you rather I was late?”

“Oh, no, early is good”.


We walk down the hall together, she middle-aged  Asian features with trademark dark dark hair. She chats aimlessly as we walk, and I respond politely where necessary.  She stops and looks at me, “You’re so calm” she exclaims.

“Probably just sleepy”

He is African, with the precise English diction that hints of French colonization.  We sit and I sign proof that really want this I-131 dose.   No mass transit for two days, stay 6 feet away from others for two days, when you get the big dose it will be longer, he tells me as if we are sharing a secret.

I sign, and agree that dry mouth, and other problems may become my lot in life and we can proceed.

The vial sits on the desk, solid and heavy, maybe 9 inches high, and almost as round he takes off the leaded lined top and inside sits a small clear bottle squared at the bottom like a glistening crystal iodine bottle.  Somehow, the office lights make it look pure, almost beautiful.

Inside is a large white capsule.  Unmarked, it appears solid and cast of metal with a white painted surface.  It is about the size of a Tylenol.

I squeeze my fingers into a small latex glove and and palm open he quickly tips the capsule to me. I pause, look closely but it yields nothing to me.  One quick gulp followed by a sip of water and it is done.