Friday, November 20, 2009



This is the last picture I took of my kitty Nero when I was home last summer. When I think of him this is pretty much what comes to mind... my sweetheart snuggle kitty. I already miss him but I suspect it won't fully hit me until I go home for Christmas and he won't be there.

He and his sister, Emily -- who is doing well, have held a very special place for me. They were part of a litter of kittens my sister and I raised since they were three weeks old when their mother went missing. I was a college freshman and had late rehearsals which combined with my sister very early coffee shop schedule helped us feed the pack of six every three hours without it being too taxing on either one of us. Jayna had more feeding shifts during the day but my schedule made it so then she could sleep through the night and go to work.

I often think of those days of bottle feeding the babies. . . especially when they were just old enough to walk and learning to run. . . I called them goslings. This is one memory I would like to share.

When we couldn't watch them they would live in the hall bathroom with their litter box, their 'nest' and other necessities. We kept a night light on. Most distinctly I remember feeding them when I got home from rehearsals. First I would prep their formula and get everything ready in the kitchen then it was time to go get the babies-- my favorite part!

I would quietly crack open the bathroom door. In the dim light I could see a nest of fur and six tiny pairs of eyes all looking directly at me. For a second everyone was still.

"Gooooossssliiinnngs!" is what I would quietly call to them which would trigger the cutest stampede EVER!

They would follow me down the hall to the kitchen where they would be fed one by one starting with the smallest one (another orange boy) working up to the largest ones with feeding the undersized ones in between. I would sit at the table with my legs curled up onto the chair to avoid the over eager leg climbers. As the kitten became full they would form a new nest of fur in front of the refrigerator. Nero was the second to smallest kitten and he melted my heart. . . and he had a way of doing that over and over and over again.

I will always have an affinity for the big orange kitty who loves to snuggle.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Geiger Counter Fun

At first it sounded like we had crickets in our house... occasional little chirps. Then it abruptly sounded like we had several very angry crickets...

"That was your toothbrush." Dennis called from the bathroom.

Really what's the point of being radioactive if I don't get to play with a geiger counter? Well, to be honest I don't get to play with it much of course because being the source of the radioactivity makes impossible to measure anything else accurately. But others get to play so that's fun... except when I can't be in the same room... but when they provide a nice narrative of what they're scanning and how it's reading (we turned the beeping off after not too long-- when I got close it turned into one solid, very shrill, beep).

It was fun-- thanks Honey-- and educational! I learned a lot more about radioactivity because of all this.

taken this morning almost 48 hours after dose
set on the second to least sensitive setting, measuring the I-131 that is "sticking"

We went in for the scan at the hospital on the 5th. When we met with the doctors to review the results they asked how I was feeling and I told them that I was feeling quite well.

"Any guesses as to why that is?" surprisingly sarcastic for an oncologist.

We suspected as much when the scan was days away and I wasn't feeling exhausted-- there were a lot of thyroid cells left over and the little over achieving stragglers where producing enough hormones to keep me functional and feeling fine.

It kind of makes me sad to kill them -- very cruel but then I remember that (collectively) they fired the the first shot and that this is no time to get soft.

My dose of radioactive iodine [100 millicuries (mCi) of Iodine-131] was ready for me the next day. It has a half-life of 8 days and comes with restrictions to protect others, namely, Dennis.

To keep the loved ones safe it comes down to Proximity, Time, and Hygiene.

Here is my brief science lesson some of which I actually remember learning in high school:

There are lots of types of radiation (notably from the sun etc.). Like light and heat, the closer you are to the source the more potent it is.

Unlike light waves radioactive waves can travel through things including people --this is what we're trying to limit because as it's passing through it can damage one's molecules along the way which can have an accumulative effect of being bad.

Different radioactive particles/wave types have different strengths. I'm sending out beta (kind of a sissy) and gamma (more of a school yard bully, not a real thug) both of which drop off in strength significantly with distance. **Dennis noted different ways of personifying these particles. That the beta particles are pretty big schoolyard bullies but they can't climb fences or run very far and thus not much of a threat once you're out of noogie distance. He then said that the gamma particles are like a pipsqueak with a B-B gun in that they can hit you from further away but the chances of it really hurting much is slim... especially the further away you are.**

To illustrate this the medical physicist measured me directly after taking the dose up close I measured at about 500, at three feet away I measured roughly at 75, and at six feet away I measured a 4. This shows why proximity (aka cuddling) is bad.

It also stands to reason why the amount of time someone spends in proximity makes a difference and why the restriction recommendation is to keep seven feet away from the people you see all time but they say I can go out in uncrowded public now that it's been a couple days. (keep in mind the rooms of our house are about nine feet in each direction, making it challenging to hang out even in the same room)

The third area of consideration is hygiene. I'm emitting radioactivity all the time but I'm also secreting it-- mostly through urine, then through mucus, then through saliva. In this way it's like the flu and obsessive hand washing really helps cut down on the creation of new radioactive surfaces. The couch where I've been sleeping had very little radioactivity but the waste basket containing my discarded tissues was on fire (I made it a point to discard all of my tissues in the same basket). And since my computer keyboard measured clean it shows I've been keeping on top of the hand washing.

Other odd precautions that make sense:

Flushing toilet several times after each use
keeping toothbrush completely segregated
using my own tube of toothpaste
making a few dinners ahead of time (just so Dennis doesn't have to after he gets home... although he is more than capable and willing)
covering my sleeping couch with blankets that can be easily washed once I get to move back to the bed.
having my own dishes and disposable flatware
my own box of tissues and waste basket
my own hand towel and segregated laundry
no kissing (bummer!)
no cuddles (total bummer!)

So yes it's very inconvenient and not very fun but before the week is through I'll be able to go about business as usual. I'm going to add extra time to the limitations because we know that there are a lot of thyroid cells that the I-131 is sticking to.

Questions? I might revise this when I re-read this tomorrow and give Dennis a chance to point out any glaring errors. The logical thing would be to hold off on pushing the publish button until then-- but it's late and I want to get this up.