Sunday, April 28, 2013


Four days after the dose, and I'm still in quarantine at my mom's. I still can't shoot webs, but I have some pain in my neck. Not sure why... it's where the right side of my thyroid used to be. Anybody got any ideas?

As of yesterday, I was able to go out and do things, as long as I wasn't in any one place for more than a few minutes. Happily, my brother rescued me by inviting me to Grayson Day. It's outdoors! And arts and craftsy! Score!

So we wandered the booths for a while and it was wonderful. We found our mom a Mother's Day gift (two weeks, people, get on it!) and met some very nice people. Good times, but I wish I'd gotten a foot long corn dog. Not that I like corn dogs all that much, but for the novelty of getting a foot long corn dog.

Today was rainy, so I spent most of the day down here in the basement. It wasn't a total waste, though, because I finally got started on the cake stands I need to make for the Georgia ICES demo next week. Check them out:

Pretty, right? I made three like this.

This is a close up of the tiki-statue leg of this luau cake stand. The plate part is bright green and fabulously tacky.
Perfect for hibiscus cupcakes.
I love this one. Pink, swirly stained glass with pretty beads going all around it? Yes, please.

But this has to be my favorite, and it's not even finished yet. If I am lucky enough for the Georgia Tech band to ever order another cake from me, I'll be ready with the stand. 

The last piece of cake should be served off "The Horse".
I have more to do tomorrow, but these were fun. 

Only three more days until I get to see my husband and kids again!

*About this quarantine thing*

I forget that not everybody has received the radiation guidelines from UAB four hundred times. So, FYI:

Radioactive Iodine (RAI) is processed and secreted through body fluids (saliva, urine, sweat, etc.). Hence all the drinking at the hospital. Because it comes out in sweat, all of my skin is radioactive. That's why I have to be away from my kids and that's why everything at the hospital was covered in plastic. Everything I touch gets contaminated.

Everything the Mandi touches...
So, to try and keep everyone else safe, I stay down here in my hidey hole as much as possible. I wore socks 24/7 for the first three days I was here so my footprints wouldn't be as bad. I also wore latex gloves whenever I had to go upstairs for any reason.

The couch down here is covered: I have a plastic bag on this cushion and the whole couch is covered with a furniture cover. 

The remote is covered in plastic, too.
My bed has a plastic cover on the mattress and the kids' mattresses have been completely moved out for this week. I will throw away the cover and pillow when I head back home. I'll also throw away my shoes and get a new phone (but this was overdue anyway).

My laundry gets washed completely separately and goes through the wash twice. Then I run the washer empty (but with some chelating cleaner like 409 in there) before anyone else can put their clothes in there. I use paper plates and disposable cutlery. I have a separate trash can for all the food trash stuff and anything else I touch, and nobody else can empty it. 

I have to flush twice and everything in the bathroom gets rinsed frequently and wiped down daily. I'll scrub it all with 409 before I leave. The toothbrush, hairbrush, shampoo, loofah, and everything else I've used will be thrown away.

Everything that went to the hospital with me will be put away for at least four weeks, so packing was an adventure. 

My daily pills were individually bagged so that I can take them without contaminating the pill bottle. I'll throw away this bottle of eye drops.  

The car is going to be interesting. It was a 3+ hour drive form UAB to mom's so I know that the car is wicked radioactive. I'll wipe down as much as I can and try to keep the kids out of there as much as possible until June.

Does that help?

I go for a full body scan on Wednesday and we'll see what lights up. Hopefully, just the salivary glands, kidneys, and bladder will show up on the scan. That's what's supposed to be radioactive now. I expect something in the neck to glow because of this pain- and that's ok. Some remnant thyroid is to be expected. What we DON'T want is anything like the lymph nodes, ovaries, or anything else to light up because that'll mean the thyroid cancer spread. That's not a good prize. But I'm sure it'll be fine.

Then, when everything is clear, I get to do this whole thing over again every 5-10 years. Overall, it's not as bad as I expected, so that's ok.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Radiation Adventures

Thanks to the Thyrogen protocol, I was able to do the RAI therapy without going off my synthetic thyroid hormone for a month (and therefore missing a month of life by being too hypothyroid to get out of bed).
The 2nd $2K shot... I call this one "Lefty"

I got to UAB early on Wednesday morning and tried to navigate my way to admitting.

Concourse A? Like the airport?

The admitting waiting room

Then they got an escort to take me to my room on the ninth floor. Not that kind of escort. UAB is so big that they have a whole team of people who just help you find your way from one place to another. 

I'd read that everything would be covered in plastic, but that didn't prepare me to see everything covered in plastic. 
The entire floor was covered.

The phone and phone cords

The rolling table thingy

But look! They provided all sorts of goodies.

The call button thingy and its cord

The chair

The door knob

EVERYTHING was covered in plastic

The door pulls

The shower? The shower has to be covered? 
And this super-cool trash can inspires all sorts of confidence.
UAB is different from EAMC. It's much bigger, obviously, but there are other differences. Meals are very different. At EAMC, they give you a menu card and you circle what you want. Then, they bring it at meal time. At UAB, they call it room service:

You order whatever you want and they bring it when you order it. It's still hospital food, but the concept is great:

I took this picture of the hallway before they dosed me so that I could remember what it looked like outside the door:
What up, 9 North! 
This wing is apparently a long-term care wing. The people who aren't radioactive seem to stay for a while. They have a laundry room and a communal kitchen for patients and guests. I met one guy who was there for his sixth quadruple bypass. He was about my age, and he knew he wasn't going home. That was tough. We chatted through the door before they brought in the radioactive pill:

My homey little room
The nurses and techs were allowed to be in my room for no more than twenty minutes per day. Yeesh. This is the instruction sheet on the door for what they had to do to enter or leave my room:

Then they brought in the pill. It was in a little test tube, and the test tube was sealed inside this big, lead container:

They unsealed it, and I had to swallow it as quickly as possible so we were all exposed to the pill as little as possible. Then we all watched to see if I would throw it up: 
This is the closest any doctor or nurse would get to me in the room unless they had to take a blood pressure or something.

I didn't throw it up. 

Then the dude with the geiger counter came to check my levels and establish how radioactive I was right after the dose. 
Radiation level: pretty darn high
He said, "I'mma tell you what your husband already know. You hot."

The best part of RAI is that the doctors tell you to keep candy in your mouth as much as possible. It's like eating popsicles after getting your tonsils out. After fourteen days on the low iodine diet, I was not about to argue with those orders.

The point of the candy is to keep the radioiodine from damaging the salivary glands. Iodine is absorbed by the thyroid and the salivary glands. We want the thyroid to soak up the radioiodine (and die), but we don't want the salivary glands to collect it. Then, I'd lose my sense of taste which is not good for an aspiring baker. So we use candy to keep the saliva production up.

All the radioiodine that isn't absorbed by the thyroid has to be processed out. In order to be released from the hospital, I had to get my geiger reading way down. That meant drinking:

Boom! I cleared my geigers on the first try! For posterity, in the 21 hours between getting dosed and clearing my geigers, I drank:
144 oz water
9 cans of soda
1 cup of coffee
1 glass of tea
1 cup of grape juice
2 cups of cranberry juice
I took three showers
And I slept 12 hours.

This was my room:

Now I'm at my mom's, living in the (perfectly lovely, finished) basement apartment. I'm drinking water, taking showers, and sucking candy to try to clear as much radiation as possible for when I go home next week. This is the hardest part. I feel fine. I can't see, taste, or feel anything different from normal. But I have to be away from my husband and kids for a week. I miss them.

I go back for the full body scan next Wednesday. Then I can go home. Meanwhile, it's tv and computer for me. It's like spring break all over again.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I know what overwhelmed is and I've heard of underwhelming. Is anybody ever just whelmed? I'm going to start saying that. When people ask me how I am, I'm going to say, "Whelmed." The lack of squiggly red lines in this paragraph mean it's a word, so maybe I should look it up.

Huh. Apparently it means "to cover completely in water" and it's also a synonym for "overwhelmed". Maybe that is what I am. Whelmed.

I've spent the last two mornings getting up at five to drive out to UAB for the Thyrogen injections. That's five hours of driving each day. It's completely worth it, though, because I got home in time to pick up my kids from school.

My kids. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to be away from them for a whole week. I've never been apart from my kids or my husband for that long. I'm not looking forward to it.

I am looking forward to eating tomorrow. I hear that I get to eat whatever I want after the radioactive pill goes down. After two weeks on the low iodine diet, I've packed my hospital bag with chocolate and cheezits in anticipation of the glorious moment when I get the all-clear to put iodine in my body again.

I'll also start back on my synthetic thyroid hormone at the hospital. The Thyrogen shots combined with going completely off the meds because of those recent test results has completely thrown me for a loop. I know it's not logical and I know that it's completely related to my hormones being thrown out of whack, but I'm struggling tonight. This is harder than I thought it would be. I don't know how to describe it. It's like my feelings are broken and fluctuate independently of any real events.

Its like, a unicorn could walk up on the porch and knock on the door, and I'd be like, "Meh." But then, I could find a dime on the floor and I'd be like, "Holy crap! A dime! I am the luckiest person EVER! This is ten cents, y'all!"

And I'm tired. And I have to get up at five again tomorrow. 'Night, world.

Monday, April 22, 2013

I'm sitting on $2K


I am sitting on two thousand dollars.

See this shot?

It costs two thousand dollars. Guess where they injected it?

I am sitting on two grand. Tomorrow, I'll get another shot injected in the other side. Then, I'll be sitting on four thousand dollars!

Suddenly, that whole conversation where the doctor was all, "What do you do?" and I was all, "I'm a teacher," and he was all, "We'll wait for the insurance to approve the Thyrogen regimen before we schedule it," makes a LOT more sense.

I have a valuable tookus, I tell ya.

The good news is, I didn't experience any side effects from the Thyrogen today. They made me sit there for about twenty minutes after the injection to make sure none of the side effects manifested. What side effects? Well, there's nausea and dizziness. There's headaches and diarrhea. And, oh yeah, there's paralysis and death. It was a tense twenty minutes. But I'm fine.

Better than fine. I asked the doctor to check my TSH because I've been feeling super-crappy lately.  Really, since I started the low iodine diet, I've been sick. I thought maybe I needed to up my meds again.

Here's what we learned: The lab at UAB does NOT, in fact, take 48 hours to return the test results to your doctor. In fact, if your results are "interesting" enough, your doctor will call you just a few hours after you got the blood drawn.

Turns out, I'm sick because I'm taking too much synthetic thyroid hormone. Ooooohhh. Huh. I've been ordered to skip my meds until Thursday and then start back on a lower dose. The good doctor sounded... concerned... on the phone. My hyperthyroid number was off the charts! Literally. It didn't measure. That's not a good thing. Oops. Meh, what can you do?

The moral of this story, kids, is to trust your gut. Tell the doctor when something feels wrong and get it checked. Don't assume you have the same stomach virus that everyone else has and you're just special because yours lasts two weeks while everyone else kicks it in ten hours.

Anyway, the Thyrogen is tanking my hormone levels, but I feel fine. It's all supposed to make the radiation more effective on Wednesday. Then, that pesky cancer won't come back.

So far, so good.

I've Spent the Last Few Days Building Up An Immunity to Iodine...

It's radiation week! We'll see how it actually plays out. If you have a moment, please pray for no side effects from the Thyrogen tomorrow and Tuesday.

In preparation for the big day, I've been on the low iodine diet for a week and a half now. Can I just say... it sucks. It sucks real real hard. Think about what you ate yesterday. Now, take away everything that was pre-packaged, cooked with salt, or contained: egg yolks, dairy, rice, soy, or more than six ounces of meat. Do you have anything left?

I miss dairy products. And cereal. And restaurants. And chocolate. Oh, chocolate.

It sucks to go to a baseball game and not get a hot dog. It sucks for teacher appreciation week to actually be observed at school with delicious treats and not get to try even a bite. You know what else sucks? Almonds. I swear, if I see one more plain almond... blergh.

But, for whatever reason, my fingernails have grown really long and strong on low iodine... so it balances... except that it doesn't really balance at all.

I should really stop feeling sorry for myself. It's only for two weeks, and the two weeks are almost over anyway. Plus, I've got Doss who can make anything better. Even low iodine diets. Check it out:

He made those yeasty rolls of awesome. And biscuits. And tons of other things without egg yolks, dairy, or iodized salt that somehow still tasted good.

Everything Doss has made out of the low iodine cookbook has been good. I'm lucky. I know it. I can't imagine how people handle this whole thing without a Doss.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

You Gotta Respect How Gaston Lives His Priorities

The kids sat through their first live performance that wasn't the Wiggles today. We saw the Opelika High School production of Beauty and the Beast... and it was awesome even without any Captain Feathersword.

Seriously. I was not expecting that level of talent here in little, old Opelika. Shows what I know.

We started at Mrs. Potts Tea Party before the show. On the way to the tea party, the monsters got to go on the stage and have their picture made with Belle and Beast:

Huge props to Beast who kindly stepped off stage because my kids were scared of the costume.

Then, we were off to the lunchroom (at least I think that's what that room was... they're renovating all over that place) for the tea party. My kids were too shy to get their pictures made with the high school kids dressed as characters, which I thought was a total waste. Those costumes were so good... I needed to get pictures of them. So I got my picture made with the characters instead. Don't mind the sunburn.

Mrs. Potts was adorable.

OK, seriously? What high school gets costumes like this? His torches even lit up.

More about her later...

Love. Love this character. Love the actress. Love. 

This guy? Ridiculously talented. We love him.
In a stunning show of braverism,she did get a hand stamp from someone in a costume.
and he bought light-up roses

And Maurice came over. And she was like, "Nope."



Checking over her shoulder, just to make sure Maurice isn't getting closer.
Then it was time for the show. My camera died and I didn't get any pictures of the performance. Here's what we learned, though: Those OHS kids are crazy talented. I've seen the professional touring production of Beauty and the Beast a few times, and I gotta say, OHS could give them a run for their money.  Especially Belle. You know how, when it's a main Disney character, it's gotta be just right or else everybody will notice? That Belle was spot on. She even did that thing. You know that thing that Disney princesses do when you meet them at the parks? There's this little mannerism that they all have, and I saw this Belle do that when my kids met her on stage before the show. You know, that thing.

The girl thought the Beast was scary. I have marks on my arm from where she held onto me while he was on the stage. And then, my favorite thing that happened... we'd been talking about whether the show would have a happy ending. So, the beast gets into a fight with the wolves right after intermission and my sweet, precious daughter says, "The wolves are getting the Beast so there will be a happy ending after all."

After the show, Bug wanted to see Belle again, so we did. They were both too scared of Gaston to go near him, so we didn't. Beast apparently holds no interest after he's transformed into a handsome prince, so we didn't go there either. There was one character that the boy just had to see, however. Ladies and gentlemen, the love of my son's life, the feather duster:

He's holding her waist pretty tight there. 
And then the girl wanted a picture, too:
Thank goodness I had my phone to get these precious memories...
Since his picture was taken, I've been hearing about my son's plans to marry this duster. Yup.

So much better than expected. I'm kind of hoping the kids ask to go back next weekend. I can better get to know my future daughter-in-law.