Recap on My Hospital Stay

For those of you who have been following along on my thyroid cancer journey, I thought I would give you a little recap on my hospital stay. For those of you who are new or aren’t familiar with thyroid cancer, the only way to treat thyroid cancer is through surgery or Radioactive Iodine (RAI).

I had surgery with RAI back in early 2016. At the time, we didn’t know that I am one of the rare people that RAI doesn’t work on. We found that out later after the cancer metastasized to my lungs. It took a couple of years for it to show up in my lungs. My numbers would increase to let us know cancer was growing but it was so small that it wouldn’t show up on scans. Finally, it did. The only problem…the only way to treat it is with RAI and RAI doesn’t work on me. UGH.

A few years ago, this would mean a death sentence. In the last couple of years, they came up with what they call redifferentiation. They alter the cancer with oral chemo so that it will accept RAI. I went through that in 2022. It bought me a little bit of time. In the Fall of 2023, it was evident that we would need to try it again. My numbers were back up. The cancer was growing again.

During February and into March, I went through the differentiation process again. The end culminates with a trip to the hospital for RAI. Typically people aren’t hospitalized for RAI but my dosage was so large, that it wasn’t safe for me to be in the general population.

Friday morning was my “glow day”. I would take the RAI pills. I was scheduled to be at the hospital at noon. They called at 8 am and told me if I was there at 9 am, they would do it then. I explained that I lived 2 hours away but would come ASAP.

Here was my hospital room. They cover things with plastic to prevent contamination. I honestly think it’s a bit of joke as the surfaces will wipe down just fine…but I tried to comply.

I was to change into the gown provided and all of my belongings except my phone were to be in a cabinet in the room.

Next up time for an IV. It was completely precautionary. They never used it. I got a new girl and she was obviously very nervous. She put the band on me so tightly. This was my arm after she tried my left arm and missed, took the band off, tried my right arm and missed, and left the room. It was so tight there was still a mark. Can you see the two divit in my arm? It was so tight she made a pucker in my arm flub. I was really nice and patient with her even though it was very uncomfortable. She has to learn and I don’t mind. My daughters were once young nurses.

She called in someone else who listened to me and stuck me exactly where I had suggested to the other girl to stick me. She was in and out in a matter of two minutes getting it on the first stick.

Then it was time for me to take my pill. They roll in a very heavy container. Inside the container is something that looks like a thermos. Inside that is a plastic bottle with another plastic and finally in that one is the pill…actually two pills. I swallowed them and the isolation began.

The guidelines for isolation are based on time and distance and the reading I am at. They use a Geiger Counter to test me. At the time I swallowed the pill I was at a 42. I had to be at or below a 7 to leave. My job now was to drink and use the toilet as much as possible to flush the RAI back out.

…and now the boring part of the whole process began.

I thought it might be okay. They had movies to stream which was a new feature since the last time I did this…only problem, the streaming wasn’t working very well. The movie would stop randomly and restart at the beginning. UGH. I tried to watch Churchill. It kept stopping and restarting. I thought maybe it was the movie so tried another movie, Captain Phillips. It did too.

I later said something to the nurse. Sadly, no one could come and fix it because they didn’t want more people exposed to me.

Two hours after taking the pill I could eat. I had brought two Uncrustable sandwiches to me. Amazingly they use non-iodized salt so I often ate them during my diet. I started going through the hospital menu to see if there was something I could eat. You can see that it’s all written on.

When I first came in, I was told I could just order off the menu but, I knew that was wrong. So many entrees had dairy or egg yolks or soy. Those were still off-limits as I was still on my diet. I was trying to figure it out on my own.

My daughter Kayla had sent me a sudoku and puzzle book to take with me. That kept me entertained for a bit.

Then my hands got swollen and red. The doctor ended up having to come in and look at them. I was prescribed a lotion. Thoughts are that it was from the oral chemo.

At this point, I was drinking a bottle of water and in the bathroom every hour or so.

The nurses came in and check on me and take my vitals but then they are right back out.

Saturday rolled around. By now I was pretty bored. I tried to figure out what my options were for food on Saturday. Friday night ordering food was hard. After talking with the person in the cafeteria for awhile, we figured out I could have a grilled chicken breast and a sweet potato with no butter and a banana. Blah! The chicken breast was very dry and I needed water to swallow it.

Saturday options didn’t look a lot better.

This time on the phone I had an awesome guy that was very helpful. I could not have the egg white omelet that I had hoped to have. He told me I could have potatoes. I said, “Great, I’ll take that.” He told me I could have turkey bacon. I said I’d take that too. He asked me if that was it as if it was, I’d be very hungry. That’s when he explained that my order meant a half cup of potatoes and one slice of bacon. He said if those were the only things besides fruit that I could order, we better order multiple severings. I told him I wanted potatoes, bacon, peaches, and a banana and to just give me enough portions of it for a meal.

This is what came!! HA! That sweet man was watching out for me!!

Everyone, nurses and assistants, felt bad for me as far as the cafeteria menu went so when I mentioned that I could order Door Dash from Chipotle (Chiptole food is all legal except sour cream and cheese) if someone would run down and get it for me. Immediately they volunteered. THANKS, Angus!! I ended up ordering food for lunch and supper. Well, actually my daughter Kayla ordered for me as I didn’t have access to my debit card. THANKS, Kayla.

After lunch the guy for nuclear medicine came and scanned me. Remember I need to get to my number below 7. My number had gone from 42 to 11…but 11 was too high and I would need to stay overnight another night. I was hopeful that I wouldn’t have to stay over Sunday night as it seemed to be dropping quickly.

I did ask how often this type of treatment happens. I was told about twice a year at Mayo Clinic Rochester campus…that’s how rare a hospital stay is for RAI in Minnesota. I was also told that guidelines for people staying vary widely from state to state. Minnesota is a more lenient state. Oregon is more strict. I don’t know about the others.

I was bored and started writing lists of things I wanted to get done.

Cut up four 100% cotton shirts
do my taxes
finish my cross stitch Red Pears
clean my kitchen cabinets
clean my sewing room
change the sheets

There are other things I later added
Fill the bird feeders
repot the houseplants
write thank yous

I took a nap on Saturday…I was so bored. I could have my phone and did look at it some. It was Needlework Market in Nashville and Instagram was filled with many posts about it. That was entertaining.

I did try to cross stitch but the lighting was bad. I really wasn’t supposed to as it was frowned on. I could do whatever I wanted as rarely did anyone check on me. I put in a few stitches and then just put it away.

On Sunday the guy from nuclear medicine came and checked on me to do a reading. Oh, I was a little worried. I was thinking he’d come in the afternoon but it was late morning. It turns out my number was 4.2. YAHOO!! I screamed YES! really loud. I could hear the nurses at the desk on the other side of the door laughing. They knew it was me…and they knew it meant I was going home!!

Of course nothing in a hospital happens that fast. It was three hours later before I was actually out there. I had to do another scan. I had to go through all of the discharge hoops.

I was so happy to finally get to the parking ramp and see my beloved van. WHEW! I did it. This chapter was done.

I am not done-done though. Now comes the side effects from the RAI. I have been doing all the things I am supposed to do. Drink lots of water…suck on sours. I am at a high risk for the terrible mouth sores, salivary issues, and loss of taste. So far everything with this treatment has gone so much better than last time. I can’t help but be hopeful that it might not be as bad as it was last time. Regardless, even if it is bad, I don’t have the weight of having problem upon problem as I did last time.

I don’t want anyone to be under any illusion that this treatment will cure me. It won’t. My case is too advanced for that. This will buy some time. Last time it was 2 years. I’m hopeful for that again. We’ll see. I’m not one that worries too much about that. Remember I have that to-do list that needs to be done and was headed home to get working on it.

I stopped at Kwik Trip on the way home. I filled up with gas. I was so thankful to have a gift card left to pay for filling the tank. After all of the trips back and forth to Rochester I made in the last week, I thought for sure I wouldn’t have any left…but I did. MANY thanks to those who have been there for me through this. The gas cards were so appreciated as were the cards notes, texts, and messages along the way.

My friend Barb called on Monday as I was cleaning kitchen cabinets. It was raining-hailing even. She was in the driveway and had a surprise for me. I ran out and got the surprise….FLOWERS!!

I stopped my cabinet cleaning to put them in a vase…oh, they are going to make cabinet cleaning much more enjoyable. THANKS BARB!! It was the perfect pick-me-up and motivation to keep cleaning cabinets. I want the table cleaned off so it’s just pretty flowers on the table.

I’m feeling great. I feel completely and totally normal.

Someone asked how long I’m in isolation now…it’s a time/distance thing. I can’t be within 6 feet of anyone for more than 15 minutes. That lessens as the week goes on. I’m off work for this week. I maybe could have gone back to on Friday but we have a gal who is pregnant at work and I don’t want to risk anything for her and her baby. I plan to go to the Stitchery Nook at the end of the week for the big Market Reveal. I’m excited about that!!

That’s the recap on my hospital stay!! Thanks for cheering me on.

28 thoughts on “Recap on My Hospital Stay”

  1. Thank goodness for the helpful guy in the hospital cafeteria! What a pity the lighting wasn’t good enough for you to stitch. I’m glad you’re home now and you can crack on with working through your to-do list!

  2. There’s nothing better than being back home and in your own surroundings. I’m so glad you’re home! You’re in my heart and my prayers. I pray God would keep you in every way.

  3. You are amazing. I hope your side effects are minimal, and that this round gives you a good long time to enjoy your life!

    I joined in on your “No Fun” event yesterday – got my fabric boxes organized, vacuumed (which REALLY needed to be done), taxes mostly organized, and new cell phone purchase progressed. I’ll pick that up and then finish the taxes after I got out from working at the primary election. Then I can have a little fun – getting a quilt layered and basted, ready for hand quilting.

  4. So glad to hear you are home and getting back into the swing of things. Time off work will give you plenty of time to get things you want and don’t want to do. Thanks goodness for the gentleman in the cafeteria!
    Love and prayers

  5. Jo so glad things are progressing a little easier this time. You should add a head lamp to your bag when lighting is not up to par. I have one to use when cleaning my machine to see the bobbin area better.
    Hope the cleaning goes well and you can get to more sewing. Have fun on your shopping spree.

  6. Glad to hear the hospital ordeal is over. Just being back home is a mood booster. I hope your side effects are no more than moderate and short term. Btw, I am a cancer survivor so have an inkling of some of what you’re going through despite not being the same type of cancer. Every 2 years brings medical advancement. Never, ever give up!!!

  7. You are our cancer WARRIOR. I am so happy you are doing better this time. We all love and admire your strength. You are always in my prayers.

  8. So glad you’re back home ! Now let’s hope your side effects are bearable. I wonder why they wouldn’t want you to cross stitch? At any rate that parts over so on to the list!

  9. Judith Fairchild

    So glad you made it through the 1st. part of your treatment without to many bad reactions. Still praying for you and your family. That distancing bit has to hard to handle when what you want is to hug your family. Keep up the good work.

  10. Glad all went without too much hassle. You handle everything with such calm grace-you are an inspiration to many I am sure. Prayers as always, Hugs,

  11. Susan from Michigan

    Welcome home, Jo. Have a good week as you get lots of things done. I pray for minimal side effects for you and positive encouragement from family and friends.

  12. Praying that your side effects will be minimal and you’ll be feeling better. We never know what the future hold but God holds our future. Keep up your great spirit.
    Thinking of you – Carolyn Patty

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. Was it mandatory that you drive yourself home? Could you have been in a vehicle with anyone else for any period of time? Thank you

    1. I requested from my family to drive myself back and forth. They offered. I said no. One of the main reasons is that I can still easily care for myself. I know down the road things for me medically won’t be that way. My kiddos will have enough to do at that time. Also, I am supposed to be at least six feet away from people at so in the car makes that hard.

  14. Your upbeat, positive attitude through all of this is just amazing. I honestly don’t know how you manage to stay so positive. You are a true inspiration. Sending prayers, cheers and happy thoughts for a speedy recovery. Where are the dogs for all of this?

    1. My daughter Kelli has the dogs. She’s so sweet to take them for me. I could have boarded them at the vet clinic. They offered as well.

  15. Thankful you home. Thankful for the man in the cafeteria. Take care and prays for a speedy recovery and no awful side effects.

  16. Susan the Farm Quilter

    So happy to hear it is going better this time – you know what to expect and you got to eat so many more foods!! A hint on your ATM/credit card info…I created a contact in my phone and down in the notes is my credit card number, expiration date and security number, so I always have it. No one would know if they were looking through my contacts, but there it is!! It is not listed under credit card, but a name only I know.

  17. Glad to know that you were able to leave the hospital on Sunday and that you are doing well so far. I have been and will continue to pray for you.

  18. Oh, Jo, I got all choked up reading all you went through. And you drove yourself home 2 hours? What a woman. Praying that the side effects don’t whack you and that your body starts healing now.

  19. So glad that this step of your treatment is behind you. What a bummer that you couldn’t do cross stitching. I can see why you said it was a very boring time. So happy to hear that you are feeling good and are able to do all the fun things on your list. Enjoy this time when you have such a good reason to stay home and do your stuff. You stay in my prayers.

  20. So glad you are this far along now. Praying the next week is much better than the first time! It’s so fortunate you educated yourself about what you could eat and didn’t choose the wrong things from the hospital menu. What would have happened if you didn’t know better and had selected things they said you could have?

  21. Jo,
    Along with everyone else on your list, I am relieved that all went relatively well for you this time! I pray it will continue to go well, in addition to the chemo being unbelievably effective! You’re definitely a glowing example of how to face our tribulations! I stand in awe of your thinking of others, your bravery and strength. Enjoy your week off, in spite of all the chores! Take good care, and keep up your wonderful attitude. I’ve been praying for you all along. Brenda King

  22. That’s quite an interesting adventure you had… not something a lot of people could endure. I’m praying you’ll get more of your projects done that you feel up to doing. I’m wondering if you’ll have a point where the radiation will make you not feel so well? Or does it pretty much leave your body day by day? The meds I took for MS made me feel so sick I could barely function. Just as I’d come out of it it would be time for one more treatment.I pray for you everyday as you have so much talent and such a beautiful loving family that rallies behind you. They need you to be their rock for a long time. Blessings and prayers

  23. Thank God for that fellow in the cafeteria! I’m sorry you had to endure the boredom and limited diet, but am so glad you’re home and feeling all right.
    Thank you for the updates. I know we are strangers, but you have so many who care about you from a distance.

  24. Judith Fairchild

    So glad the hospital travel is done for awhile. Praying that the side effects aren’t as bad as 2 years ago.
    You do have the right idea stay busy doing what has to be done and what you enjoy too.

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