Linda's Thyroid Cancer Page

On making decisions about your health:
"As long as you are of legal age and able to think clearly, logically, and coherently for yourself, you should never cede that responsibility to anyone else - not to your doctor, not to your friends, not to your family, not to the health gurus, and especially not to the media."
- Dr. Dean Edell, in Eat, Drink and Be Merry


  • What's New As Of September 16, 2006
  • My Story
  • My Thyca-Blog (latest entry September 16, 2006)
  • Celebrities with Thyroid Cancer
  • The Most Awesome 50-Microgram Iodine Diet
  • My Letter to the USDA
  • Fun With Nuclear Medicine
  • Prophylactic Potassium Iodide for Nuclear Accidents
  • The Dumbest Thyca Riddle
  • Resources and Links

  • My Story

    I will probably never get around to writing my thyca story, but since I was diagnosed more or less during pregancy, my birth story has some of the thyca story in it.

    I do have some photos of my thyroidectomy scar.

    My Thyca-Blog

    This section of the site is a blog in which I will record any miscellaneous thing I feel like saying that has anything to do with thyca.

    September 15, 2006

    Long time no write -- so long in fact that someone emailed me to make sure I'm OK! (Thanks SimianBrute1!) But no news is excellent news, apart from my six-month checkups and daily 150 ug pill, I don't think much about my thyroid. But I do have a little rant I've been saving up since my last RAI treatment, so here goes.

    Have you been wondering what to bring with you to read when you check in to the hospital for your RAI? I have one piece of advice: don't bring Agatha Christie. I had read a bit of Christie in the past and thought it would be suitable for a convalescence. So I brought a copy of Miss Marple: The Complete Stories to the hospital with me. Bad choice. Ms. Christie apparently takes a very dim view of invalids. Of the twenty stories in this volume, there are two which center on an invalid ("The Blue Geranium" and "The Case of the Perfect Maid"). In both the invalid is a perfectly horrible person. One is a hysterical hypochondriac, the other ridiculously demanding:

         "Lavinia is very good to me. Lavvie dear, I do so hate giving trouble, but if my hot water
    bottle could only be filled in the way I like it - too full weighs on me so; on the other hand,
    if it is not sufficiently filled, it gets cold immediately!"
         "I'm sorry, dear. Give it to me. I will empty a little out."
         "Perhaps, if you're doing that, it might be refilled. There are no rusks in the house,
    I suppose -- no, no, it doesn't matter. I can do without. Some weak tea and a slice of lemon --
    no lemons? No, really, I couldn't drink tea without lemon. I think the milk was slightly
    turned this morning. It has put me right against milk in my tea. It doesn't matter. I can
    do without my tea. Only I do feel so weak. Oysters, they say, are nourishing. I wonder if I
    could fancy a few. No, no, too much bother to get hold of them so late in the day. I can fast
    until tomorrow."
         Lavinia left the room murmuring something incoherent about bicycling down to the village.
         Miss Emily smiled feebly at her guest and remarked that she did hate giving anyone any trouble.
    That passage is admittedly pretty funny. But somehow, in the middle of hypo hell, one is already wracked with guilt from causing so much trouble to one's loved ones, and physically feeling so sluggish and lazy and worthless. The last thing someone in this sorry state needs is a body of work where everyone in a sickbed is the worst sort of malingerer.

    (Past Entries in my Thyca-Blog are also available.)

    Celebrities with Thyroid Cancer

    Here is the list I have, any additions please e-mail me! Sorry for the long gap! Thanks FMF for your email about Catherine Bell!

    The Most Awesome 50-Microgram Iodine Diet

    Some of us follow a low-iodine diet prior to RAI scanning or treatment. Usually it's handed to you in the form of things to avoid. (An example is here.) My terrific endo gave me instead a 50 Microgram Iodine Diet based on an article in a medical journal. It is AWESOME. Rather than being just a list of things to avoid, it is a list of the foods you CAN eat, and in what amounts. It is truly a "diet" at about 1400 calories per day. I have used it twice, and lost seven pounds each time. (Hooray!) But the best part is the feeling that I'm truly flushing the iodine out.

    My Letter to the USDA

    For those of us who follow a low-iodine diet for scanning and treatment, and want to get more exact information about the iodine content of foods, check this link for my little rant and a letter to the USDA.

    Fun With Nuclear Medicine

    Ever wonder, when you take your dose of I-131, just how much iodine you are ingesting? It's less than you think! Here are the notes from my calculation. (Performed at 2 AM during hypo insomnia - I had nothing else to do!) It was gratifying to find out that I really did learn something in that horrid physical chemistry class. Thank you, Professor Van Hecke!

    Prophylactic Potassium Iodide for Nuclear Accidents

    Go here to read my pointless rant about prophylactic KI, if you are really interested.

    The Dumbest Thyca Riddle

    Q: What does a person taking RAI have in common with a state-of-the-art commercial satellite?
    A: They both emit xenon ions.

    (Hey, I WARNED you it was dumb. Or maybe I should say lame.)

    Some explanation is needed (and finally I get to rattle on about my vocation... yep I have been working on communication satellites lo these ten years!). Part One of the explanation is that I-131, being radioactive, breaks down by emitting a negative charge from its nucleus (in the form of a beta particle, AKA an electron). This changes one of the neutrons in the nucleus into a proton. The radioactive iodine atom originally had 53 protons - when it suddenly gets 54, it's not a radioactive iodine atom any more. It has become a xenon atom. (Look up Periodic Table in the dictionary, you'll see I for Iodine at #53, and Xe for Xenon right next door at #54.) More precisely, it has become a xenon ion, because the electron hurtles itself away from the atom, travelling no more than three millimeters before smashing into something, hopefully a cancerous thyroid cell's DNA which it obliterates (hooray!).

    What happens to the xenon atom then? Xenon is gaseous and forms no chemical bonds, so it dissolves in your bloodstream like the air you breathe. Eventually it will be emitted from your lungs or skin and enter the atmosphere. Does it affect you while it's in your body? Absolutely not, it is a gas very much like helium and can't hurt you at all. Besides, you are getting such a vanishingly small amount of it (see Fun With Nuclear Medicine) that even if I-131 turned into arsenic it wouldn't hurt you.

    Part Two of the explanation is the satellite part. You know that a satellite requires a bunch of fuel to get up into orbit, that's usually the job of the launch vehicle (rocket). But, once it's up there, the satellite also needs some fuel to make minor adjustments to its orbit from time to time ("stationkeeping"), or occasionally to move to a different orbit. Various different technologies are in use to make the thruster "burns" in space, usually with chemical fuel. Another approach is to use an ion drive, which generates thrust from the electromagnetic repulsion of ionized atoms or molecules. An especially nifty "engine" of this type is Boeing's Xenon Ion Propulsion System (XIPS). This contains a reservoir of xenon ions, which are squirted out through the thruster nozzles to accelerate or decelerate the satellite. Xenon was chosen because it is a heavy ion, chemically inert, and very safe. As the link above describes, the engineers considered using cesium or mercury as the propellant ion, but cesium was too chemically active and caused corrosion to the satellite, and mercury is too poisonous. (Let me stress here that xenon is NOT radioactive. Radioactive fuel has been used for satellites in the past, but no one wants to put radioactive materials in space if they can possibly avoid it, so this is not popular and I don't think it's done any more.) Xenon is a good choice for satellite propulsion because it is very safe, even though it is obscenely expensive compared to mercury or a number of other candidate fuels. A xenon ion drive was also used on NASA's Deep Space 1, and will be used on the Dawn Mission to investigate the asteroids Ceres and Vesta, launching in 2006.

    Resources and Links

    "Patients who ask questions, elicit treatment options, express opinions, and state preferences about treatment during office visits with physicians have measurably better health outcomes than patients who do not. No amount of technically excellent care will produce optimal outcomes if patients are not actively engaged in managing diseases, particularly chronic disease."
    - Sherrie Kaplan, Codirector of the Primary Care Outcomes Research Institute, Boston MA
    (quote lifted from Mary Shomon's thyroid newsletter!)


    The information provided herein should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Everything I know about medicine, I learned from watching ER. Oh, that hunky Dr. Carter! I'd love to get him alone in Exam Room 2 sometime.

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    © 1999-2004 linda_tam@alumni.hmc.edu