Saturday, November 21, 2009

In It To Win It

OK, I am officially frustrated with this diet. BUT - I got my blood test on Thursday, and the results look good: I am all set to swallow a pillful of radioactive iodine on Monday at 9am! Maybe not everyone's ideal Monday-morning activity, but at this point I'm almost looking forward to it.

I started the low-iodine diet on the 2nd, stopped my meds on the 11th, and had that blood test on the 19th. I was rushing things a bit - most people going thru this process are off their medication for two weeks before going in for the blood test, but my doctor seemed to think it was fine. After all it is just a test, and my copay is low enough that I was willing to give it a shot. I'm determined to enjoy as much of December as possible, and getting this over with is my top November goal (actually probably my top goal of 2009.)

The test measured my TSH level. TSH is thyroid stimulating hormone, and is basically your body's way (via the pituitary gland) of saying "Hello, I need more thyroid hormone over here!" In people who still have their thyroid it only takes a little TSH to get it going, but if you don't have a thyroid it just keeps on climbing as long as you deny your body the hormone (in the form of a pill.) Pre-surgery my TSH level hovered somewhere around .5 to 1.5. The goal this past week was to get it up to 20+.

The expectation was that the longer I was without thyroid hormone the worse I'd feel. Tired & sluggish, cold all the time, and other gross symptoms. It sounded awful, but was apparantly a necessary part of the process. My body surprised me again, tho, and I've been feeling great! A little tiredness here & there, but nothing unusual, and no other observable symptoms. I'm excited and pleased to have such a hearty constitution.

The blood test resulted in a TSH level of nearly 24, so plans have been made for a Monday morning RAI treatment. I'll walk into the hospital, swallow a pill, and go home. For the following 48 hours I'm supposed to stay at home and limit contact with people to 30 minutes max. Then for the next 5 days I have to basically avoid getting my fluids on things that can't be washed. But that's pretty much the extent of it. So much better than the 2-week isolation the Internet had led me to expect. Thanks a lot, Internet.

The most glorious part: At the end of that first 48 hours I am allowed to stop this low-iodine diet!!! Good thing, too: Last night I was nearly overcome by the feeling of longing brought on by a photo of a grilled cheese sandwich. I'm a model vegetarian, but I am not cut out to be a vegan, unfortunately.

On December 2nd I go in for a scan, to see if there are any bits of thyroid cells or cancer left in me. If so they will glow due to the radioactivity. We're hoping for a clean scan, and I have every reason to expect this will be the case. Once I get those results back I can get on with my life. Very much looking forward to that.

My lab result from Kaiser:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm Hungry.

Friday October 30th I talked to my doctor, and got the ok to start my low-iodine diet a week earlier than the plan had originally called for. So last Monday was day one: and of course I wasn't really prepared. Turns out - hey! - a whole lot of food items have iodine in them! I'm a vegetarian, so I'm used to saying no to certain types of food, but now I can't eat egg yolks, dairy, soy, sea salt, and a variety of other seemingly random food. (Potato skins are apparently a no-no, but the insides are fine. Rice is debatable.)

Fortunately I can eat fresh fruits & veggies, most grains and beans, and kosher (non-iodized) salt is perfectly fine. Thank goodness I don't have to do this on my own: ThyCa's Low Iodine Cookbook has been crazy helpful - I've included a link in the sidebar if you want to download your own copy. It's 90 pages of helpful tips & recipes that have really saved me this week. I thought I would be ok with just cooking vegan items, but there are so many potential iodine pitfalls that at least in this early stage I'm happy to rely on a book that I know is completely safe.

I've been slowly gathering food this week: the photos here are of my new giant box of kosher salt. Since you're supposed to avoid any salted items on the chance that it is iodized, I went for two days without eating any salt - my body was sooooo happy when I finally gave it some sodium!
But the key word above is "slowly" - I am remarkably bad at feeding myself. I enjoy a tasty meal, but often can't seem to plan ahead of time in order to cook for myself. I got my act together on Wednesday: read up on a few recipes and went on a little shopping spree at Whole Foods. I should be set for the next week or so.

In a way it's fun: I like a challenge, and picking out the foods I can eat has been a little bit like a game. I've gotten better at remembering to read the lables on all packages of food, tho I slipped this weekend when I used some hot sauce without checking to see if it had salt in it. Argh.

What I miss most:
Eggs, ice cream, milk, cheese, butter (etc.), crackers, salted sunflower seeds, and the ability to just grab something from the cupboard and eat it without checking first.

Positive things:
I can drink pretty much all sodas, juices, and alcohol! And (previous items notwithstanding) this is a pretty healthy diet, what with the fresh foods and the careful monitoring of ingredients. I'm incredibly lucky to be living in an area with so many wonderful grocery stores. I've found several items at Whole Foods that I'll probably keep on eating after all this is finished, am looking forward to spending some time at Berkeley Bowl, and have rediscovered my love for fresh-ground peanut butter.