Saturday, October 17, 2009

Three Whole Weeks

Catching up on homework.

Solitary Confinement. I did it. For THREE WHOLE WEEKS. Sort of.

After my taking my radioactive dose in an effort cure my thyroid cancer, I was put in isolation. Back in those days (four years ago) they still had you stay at the hospital for the the first three days.

I was placed in a corner room on the top floor with the rooms next to me left vacant since radio waves are no respecter of walls (I always wondered about the poor soul in the room beneath me). A line was taped off around the door that I was not allowed to pass, a box of disposable blue booties and a chair sat waiting for any visitors, nurses, or doctors. No one was allowed to be in my presence for more than a total of 20 minutes per day. It was rather lonely.

The phone receiver was covered in plastic -protected from my radioactive breath droplets- they'd had to put too many in long term storage due to high readings on the Geiger counter so it was standard operating procedure now.

All food was brought to my room in disposable containers and had to remain in my room for the entire stay until the Hazard Crew performed a room clean-up. I tried to eat everything, but the radiation made me nauseous. As you can imagine, it was rather smelly in there and that did not help my nausea. The nurses kept shutting my door although it made no difference. Somehow that closed door was as good as putting me on Mars or the deepest, darkest smallest cave. The two times I've done this treatment at the hospital are the only times I've felt any form of claustrophobia and I've been in far more confining quarters (can you say Brain/thoracic MRI?). It was stifling and some of my anxiety came back every time the door was closed. I would sneak over whenever they left and open it just a smidge.

I was encouraged to drink as many fluids as possible and shower several times a day (to aid in the flushing of all that radioactivity out of my system). Because I had an infant (who simply by necessity would require close proximity to my neck), my doctors were overly cautious in their instructions for my post-hospital isolation. I should not be in my own house and should not even touch my baby until the Geiger counter numbers were in a certain zone.

My parents generously offered me the spare bedroom in the upstairs corner of their home, my mom volunteered to care for Ellie, and Mr. O and my aunt held down the fort back home. Even at my parent's home my food was set just inside the door and I waited until they left to go pick it up.

I brought some needlework to keep me busy at the hospital and basically spent my time catching up on TV. It was lonely. All my belongings were scanned before I left to ensure they weren't emitting dangerous levels of radioactivity.

I was not allowed to drive myself home, so my dad picked me up and I was told to sit as far away from him as possible. We stopped for a Steak-n-Everything sandwich on the way home (I know I was radioactive - we sat in the far corner of the restaurant). It was the first real food I'd had in 6 weeks and the pepper in it tasted wonderful. It wasn't until they brought me a pork salad from Cafe Rio the next day that I realized my taste buds were gone. Completely killed. Then my salivary glands began to swell. The chipmunk look does wonders for one's self esteem. NOT.

I was to spend another two and a half weeks in that corner room, going in for periodic Geiger counter measurements. My mom would bring Ellie to the bottom of the stairs and I would gaze down at her longingly, looking forward to when I could hold her again.

I filled my days with working on this quilt for my sister (and then it went into storage for 40 days, just in case)

All the floral blocks are hand appliqued. We hadn't had cable for a few years,so I sat there stitching and watching reruns of Clean House on the Style Network and TLC's What Not to Wear. I also spent some time on the phone interviewing my Grandma B about some old family stories. (Another post to come on a really scandalous episode from my way-back ancestors' past). I wrote page after page in my journal letting the conversations in my head spill out on to paper.

So what I am trying to say by all of this, is that if I had something I could do to keep my hands busy (as well as cable TV, a journal, and Hershey Milk Chocolate Nuggets with Almonds - if I'm being perfectly honest here) I'd be able to survive, but the loneliness was something I wouldn't wish on anyone.

In fact, I need to see if there is someone whose loneliness I can do something to alleviate.


Loralee and the gang... said...

I don't even like to completely close the bathroom door when I feel the need to go in there, so I can't imagine what that must have been like! You are one tough lady, and I admire your faith and courage. You go!

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

Put simply....that sounds like hell. :)

andrea said...

I agree with the above comment....that does sound like hell.

Especially the part where you had to stay away from your baby. :( I hope you never have to experience anything like that again.

Travelin'Oma said...

What a horrible ordeal! You are awesome. I hope this treatment worked and that you're doing well now.

sue-donym said...

Wow. I had no idea you had to go through all that. Heartbreaking.

Tebbs Family said...

All of your experiences have made you such a strong woman!! Thank you for sharing so we can appreciate you even more! (I do have to be honest and say I would never want to go through anything close to what you did, but once in awhile I would LOVE to have three weeks of solitude.) I don't think I would be lonely...

Up in Bubbles said...

You truly are one tough cookie. I stayed in the hospital with my baby for three days and was so lonely I can't even imagine 3 weeks all by myself. I am however very grateful for how you spent your time during those three weeks. I ended up with the most beautiful thing (quilt) I own and will probably ever own. Thank you so so so much. I will love it even more knowing how hard it was for you to be alone while making it. It truly is beautiful! Love you KEL

Omgirl said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Your story is fascinating. You are amazing to go through all of this! I pray that you will be well.

kado! said...

what a story...and an ordeal to go thru! Thanks for sharing! are a very brave and strong woman!

...somedays I feel all on the East coast when all our family and friends are on the West coast....but now after your story...I'll try not to feel so sorry for myself.

Anonymous said...

What? I didn't comment here? It must have been one of those days when gremlins ate my comments.

That sounds like SUCH an ordeal. The only part that sounds nice is time to rest and stitch and read, but being separated from my baby would make it hard to enjoy those. I'm lucky I escaped the RAI with my Grave's (although I do accept there are cases where it's the best treatment, but I also think it's over-prescribed for non-cancerous thyroid problems.) I did end up with a slow-functioning thyroid, but at least it still does part of the job.

Anyway, this sounded grueling. Do you set off alarms at airports? I've heard of RAI patients having that happen.

Kimberly said...

Wow. And sorry. My goodness. And I felt sorry for myself just being on bed rest!