I Was Radioactive For 3 Days And Here’s What Happened


When you hear the word radioactive, you start to think of a green, poisonous slime that gives you superpowers. That’s what I thought when my surgeon suggested I take radioactive iodine after my surgery. I had my thyroid gland taken out, took a pill, was radioactive for three days, and here’s what happened.

1. The Diagnosis

I was working at an ACME supermarket as a bagger. I felt like crap as usual. However, it wasn’t the job, it was something more. I was severely depressed and had been for quite some time. I was arranging items on a shelf when I saw the pharmacist on duty. I walked up to her and blatantly asked her how to get tested for depression. Besides being diagnosed by a psychologist, she suggested the cause could be something more, like an illness, and that I should get my blood tested.

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I did exactly what the pharmacist suggested and had my blood tested. The results came back abnormal. I was referred to an endocrinologist to take a look at my thyroid gland. Before that I didn’t even know what a thyroid was. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped glad in your neck that controls metabolism and other bodily functions. I wasn’t producing enough thyroxine hormone so I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. One of the symptoms was, in fact, depression so I knew something was up. Further testing (including an excruciating biopsy) revealed I had thyroid cancer.

I Was Radioactive For 3 Days And Here’s What Happened

2. The Surgery

It was my first time having surgery and surprisingly, I wasn’t scared. I’ve never been cut into—except for the time I sliced my knee open on an inexplicably sharp bed frame—but that’s a story for another time. I washed myself that morning with this bottle of brown soap. I didn’t eat or drink anything, not even water. I was in pre-op getting hangry when my surgeon greeted me saying he’s running a bit late with his surgeries and I had to keep waiting.

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Some time later, I was injected with anesthesia. I didn’t feel a thing. It wasn’t until they rolled me just two feet away that I slumped right into my pillow as if I had downed an entire gallon of NyQuil in under a minute.

I woke up, well, I wasn’t really awake. I was coming to hours later, I heard voices around me but I couldn’t open my eyes. I started shivering so hard and I herd someone shout, “she’s cold, she’s cold.” And just like that, I was out like a light again.

I Was Radioactive For 3 Days And Here’s What Happened

3. The Pill

No, not the birth control pill, radioactive iodine. My endocrinologist suggested I take it about a week or two after my surgery. Radioactive iodine is intended to kill any cancer cells that may still be lingering in your body after surgery. I had never heard of people ingesting radioactive things. Aside from the chemical slime from The Secret World of Alex Mack, I thought radioactive things were handled with gloves, face masks, and full bodysuits because they were that deadly.

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I went in and the doctor had a plastic cup with two pills that looked like time-release Tylenol capsules. Despite looking harmless, I was told not to touch it and to swallow it as soon as he poured them into my mouth. I was to say in my room and away from people for three days. I also had the upstairs bathroom during the duration on my quarantine. Any feminine products or trash needed to be tied up and dropped off to my doctors. I wasn’t bothered by the doctors’ orders because I was used to staying in my room all day so this was nothing new.

I Was Radioactive For 3 Days And Here’s What Happened

4. Day 1

The days were, at the time, normal to me. I didn’t have a social life or a car, so there was no reason to leave my room. I spent my first day sleeping and playing The Sims from sun up to sundown. When I needed food I would call out to my mother and she would drop off the food at my bedroom door and run away, kind of like a ding dong ditch delivery…or USPS.

I Was Radioactive For 3 Days And Here’s What Happened

5. Day 2

I played some more video games. However, I slept more than normal. I wasn’t sure why but I was starting to feel bored and irritable.

I Was Radioactive For 3 Days And Here’s What Happened

6. Day 3

It was clear that I was coming down with cabin fever. I realized that I didn’t have a social life so why was i feeling this way. I think it was because I realized just because I had no where in particular to go, didn’t mean I liked having the restriction of not being able to go anywhere at all. I don’t like being told what to do, even if I am radioactive.

I Was Radioactive For 3 Days And Here’s What Happened

In Conclusion

The radioactive iodine was probably the worst part of my cancer journey. I was quarantined in my room and even had to give my mother notice to hide when I came out of my room to go to the bathroom. In a nutshell, my free will was taken away. The thing is, I’m so grateful for it, because four years later, I’m cancer free. And no more radioactive treatments!

If you’ve ever done the radioactive iodine treatment, let me know in the comments below!
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