You may be wondering why the beginning of this post has 7 photos of the giant ferris wheel known as the London Eye. Well that’s because these photos mark all of the appointments I’ve had at the hospital since I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease 3 months ago. Since then I’ve traipsed back and forth to the hospital every 2-4 weeks, had my left (and once, right) arm punctured so many times that I’m covered in constant bruises and track marks, befriended the nurses who stab me, rushed into hospital when I fell ill as it could’ve been a sign of my immune system shutting down, taken four different dosages of the same medication and watched my disease chart itself up and down, yet always a long way away from the ranges of “normal”.
Today my doctor discussed the possibility of radioiodine treatment with me.
From the beginning I’ve known that this was a potential option. Even if the medication – essentially a drug used to regulate the thyroid hormones – takes hold and manages to bring your thyroid levels back to normal, there is a 95% chance of recurrence once you come off the treatment. In those cases the medication is no longer an option, so instead you undergo radioiodine treatment which is administered in a single drinkable dosage and after which it’s very likely that you will go from having a hyperactive thyroid to a hypoactive thyroid, in which case you’ll be put onto a thyroid regulating hormone for the rest of your life. In my case, my body is proving resistant to the medication – which is odd as I was initially very responsive to it – and so the likelihood is that radioiodine treatment is the next step. It’s just Sod’s Law, I guess.
I’m told by my doctor and my friend Mimi that it’s better to be hypo than hyper, that it’s manageable once you’ve found the correct dosage, that the blood tests will dwindle to once every 6 months/a year, that the side-effects are minimal – hair loss, flu-like symptoms, dry skin, feeling colder than normal, fluctuating weight, excessive tiredness. I’m told that after the treatment I would have to stay away from the young, old and pregnant and avoid prolonged contact with, well, anybody for a few weeks, due to the possibility of radioactive contamination. I’m told that it’s a successful form of regulating the thyroid, that it’s safer and far less invasive than the other surgical option. I’m told that I’m going to be okay.
But it doesn’t matter how many people tell me that it’s going to work out, how many hugs or reassuring words I receive: I’m terrified. I keep asking myself questions that I can’t answer – “why me,” “why now,” “why,” I keep crying quietly in the kitchen as I wash dishes, wipe down surfaces or fold laundry; I’m angry that it’s never easy, that it’s always one thing after another and that I can’t do anything to make it better.
Then I wipe my face and I carry on. I bury myself in work, I attend events with great gusto and meet amazing people. I plan meals and future adventures around the world. I try not to talk about my illness, play it off as just being something that happens because I don’t want to have to think about it any more than I already do. I answer the query, “are you okay?” With, “yes, fine, thank you”… but really I’m worried, I’m scared and I just want to be healthy and happy. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, is it?
I’d appreciate good thoughts and vibes, if you believe in God/s and want to pray (or your equivalent) that’s appreciated too. Thanks to everybody who has left comments, sent emails or Twitter messages; to the silent lurkers and occasional drop-ins; to the friends, family and housemates who have texted, called, hugged or just let me cry into their clothing (sorry about that). I’m not sure how this is going to play out and maybe that’s the most terrifying part of all, but I’m so grateful to all of you for continuing to support me.
Until next time, peace and love.