I had my letter from Nuclear Medicine that stated I had been given RAI if I set off the monitors in the airport. I left Utah on May 27, 2011 and I was never happier to board a plane and be on my way back to my family. That was such a happy day to finally be on the land of Japan once again! However, I did have to spend the night in Haneda as I didn’t quite make it for the last flight to Misawa; the next morning I arrived in Misawa. Oh, how I missed all the green and beauty of Japan and the people. Finally, I was back with my family! When I came back, my husband would hardly let me out of his sight. I can’t blame him though, that separation was really difficult, and I guess I would be doing the same thing if roles were reversed.
Little did I know, that my arrival back in Japan would be short-lived. We knew with my cancer diagnosis and the fact that we were due to rotate back to the United States, that we could be leaving Japan shortly. I came back to Japan at the end of May and we got orders in July to transfer back to the state of Colorado. That was not too far from our family. I was very sad to leave Japan as I had just returned! It is just so heart wrenching having to say goodbye to so many good friends. So now we had to get ready for the move and I started going through all our belongings and trying to discard out old things. How do you discard thirteen years’ worth of belongings? We were busy over the next few months getting ready for the move. Finally, with much reservation I put in my resignation for the schools; they had held my job for me and I was ready to start substitute teaching again!
Finally, the day came for my RAI ablation dose in May and the start of my experience being a glow bug – you don’t actually glow but some people term it like that as you are radioactive! I was given 152 mCi’s (millicuries) of Radioactive Iodine. It can come in either pill or liquid form, just depending on what the hospital uses. While in the nuclear medicine department of the hospital I was given the radioactive material in liquid form. I drank it through a straw which was encased in this very heavy metal container and here is an example of what it looked like:
After swallowing the liquid I walked out of the hospital trying to keep away from people as much as possible and my parents drove me home with me in the very back seat of their SUV, as I needed to be away from them as far as I could.
I had to be isolated from everyone for three days. I pretty much only went between the bathroom and the bedroom as I didn’t want to expose my parents to the radiation, even though I was told it was safe to be at an arm’s length distance from them. I thought that it was best to err on the side of caution. It was a lucky thing that my parents had a basement area with a separate bedroom and bathroom. I was nervous about what side effects I was going to experience after having received the radiation. Some of the side effects that I experienced was that I felt more tired than usual and had a metallic taste in my mouth which lasted for a few weeks. I know many people have had salivary gland issues and lucky that I didn’t experience any problems with that during and after the isolation period; however, I did ensure that I was drinking plenty of water and that probably helped a lot.
To pass the time during the isolation period, I would watch movies on my computer, read some books that I was able to finish and slept a lot afterwards as I felt extremely tired. My parents would leave my food outside the door. After about one day of that I was starting to go stir-crazy! When the isolation period was over I felt like I could finally breathe and it was wonderful feeling the fresh air outside. I remember after the isolation period, having to really scrub and clean everything very thoroughly. I finally started to feel a little more human again after I was able to stop the LID and start taking my thyroid meds again which were a few days after the isolation period was over. Did I ever celebrate being out of isolation with a crab dinner at Red Lobster and it felt like the most amazing meal I have ever had! It was about ten days after having the ablation dose that I was given the whole body scan on May 11, 2011; moreover, I did not like that scan one bit! The plate comes within about two inches from your face. I felt as though I couldn’t breathe; I am very claustrophobic and do not like closed in spaces. They had to pull me out a few times and finally they just covered my eyes and then I was able to get through the scan. The scan did not show any residual disease. About two weeks later my docs released me to go back to Japan. Was I ever glad to be going back home to Japan to see my husband and children.