In preparation for internal radiation therapy next week, my doctors have taken me completely off the T3—thyroid hormone replacement—and are plunging me into a state of complete thyroid hormone withdrawal and hypothyroidism. This, I’m told, is designed to send my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels, produced by the pituitary gland, through the roof and help facilitate the uptake of the 131-I (radioactive iodine) that I am to receive.
I am now one full week into the withdrawal period, which I have to endure for more than three weeks due to the WBS (whole body scan) which follows one week after the RAI (radioactive iodine) ablation. Symptoms of hypothyroidism are setting in, including: strange sensations of anxiety—over what, I’m not sure—mixed with thirst—but I’m not thirsty—mixed with hunger—but I’m not hungry.
I’m also experiencing a general weakness, fatigue, and lethargy—I want to do stuff, but can’t seem to find the energy or willpower; although I did get all my yard work and landscaping done this weekend. I also, somehow, managed to negotiate DMV—hours of waiting in line and filling out paperwork—in order to get my driver’s license renewed. However, I’m letting my wife do all the driving because I fear my reflexes are somewhat delayed and my reaction times are slower. The experts warn that “all patients who are hypothyroid should avoid making important decisions and driving or operating heavy machinery for one to two weeks before and after the scan or treatment” (Thyca, 2012a).
I notice, too, that my skin is drying out and becoming crinkly, my hair is becoming brittle, I’m experiencing muscle aches and joint pain, and my internal thermostat seems to be aligning more with my wife’s. Around our house, we’ve always engaged in that age-old battle of the sexes over the thermostat: she’s always complaining about being cold, while I’m typically too hot. But lately, I’m feeling cold a lot, too—yes, even here in tropical Hawai’i—especially at nights.
Mostly, I’m just feeling somewhat “froggy”—my head is being overrun with what Ne’ and I refer to as “brain frogs”—producing bouts of dizziness, lightheadedness, or detachment from reality; like I have been mildly sedated or something. This is often accompanied by a mild headache and a woozy nausea; like you get on a spinny carnival ride—just writing about it makes me want to go lay down.
These frogs, when they really get to hopping and playing, often cause me to forget what I was just thinking about, or to get all emotional over some incident, or thought, or memory; and then wonder to myself what it was that I was just getting all worked up about. They cause me to forget people’s names, or how to pronounce highfalutin words, or how to spell even the most common words like, “fog”… I, I mean, “frog!”
I know, I know, some of you reading this are probably thinking to yourself, “huh — sounds like regular ole Salty to me, in fact, he may have actually improved!”
In addition to all that hormonal stuff, and the creepy brain frogs, I’m now into the second week of what has got to be one of the strictest diets in the world—affectionately known to those of us in the ThyCa community as, “The LID” (low iodine diet). To borrow a phrase from the character, Peter Pan, in Steven Spielberg’s motion picture Hook (1991), “Gandhi ate more than this!” What is the LID?
- Absolutely no iodized salt or sea salt or any foods or products that may contain iodized salt or sea salt.
- No seafood or sea products, or products containing sea products (including: carrageenan, agar-agar, algin, alginate, nori) because all products from the ocean tend to be high in iodine.
- No dairy products (milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream, powdered dairy creamers, whey, casein, other dairy products) or products that may contain dairy products.
- No egg yolks or whole eggs or foods or food products that may contain whole eggs.
- No soybeans or soy products (soy sauce, soy milk, tofu) or food products containing soy products.
- No corn products or food products containing corn products.
- No beans, including: red kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, or cowpeas – black-eyed peas… (can have black beans and white beans).
- No Swiss chard, broccoli, spinach, turnips & turnip greens, radish, eggplant, rhubarb, potato (with skins), cranberries, strawberries, prunes, bananas (can have 1 occasionally).
- No chocolate (for its milk or salt content), molasses, or any other sweets, candies, or products that may contain dairy or salt.
- No iodine-containing medications (check with doctor), vitamins, and food supplements. Also products containing iodate or iodide. Check the label and ingredients and discontinue completely if iodine is included. Most vitamins with minerals contain iodine.
- No products that may contain Red Dye #3 (erythrosine — contains iodine). Avoid all red, orange, or brown processed food, food products, or pills and capsules.
- No restaurant food and fast food.
- No commercial baked goods or bakery products.
- No manufactured or processed foods.
(Thyca, 2012b – adapted)
So what, then, CAN I eat? Pretty much everything else; which amounts to pretty much, “NOTHING!” Not really, it just seems like it whenever we go shopping. Actually, I somehow manage to eat pretty good, all-in-all. In fact, tonight, I will eat better than most of the children of the world… hummm!
The “official” list says that I can have:
- Fresh meats, up to 5 ounces per day (beef, chicken, turkey—if not broth injected).
- Whole grains and cereals, up to 4 servings per day (grains, cereals, pasta, and breads without iodine-containing ingredients). Homemade baked goods and cereals are best on this diet.
- Basmati rice—like grains, rices vary in the amount of iodine depending on the region where grown, so rice should be eaten only in limited amounts.
- Fresh fruits and fruit squeezed juices—homemade.
- Fresh vegetables, preferably raw and fresh-cooked or frozen without salt.
- Unsalted nuts and unsalted nut butters.
- Honey, maple syrup—some jellies.
- Black pepper, most fresh or dried herbs.
- Vegetable oils without additives.
- Clear sodas, non-instant coffee and tea, beer, red wine, distilled water—some sparkling waters.
- And all the imaginary “Never Food” I care to eat.
(ThyCa, 2012b – adapted)
Sooooo, I’ve got my new Nutribullet, along with my new Cuisine Art hand-held stick blender/chopper, standing at readiness. My cupboards are chalked full of fresh whole, organic nuts, and whole grains, along with simple seasonings; my fridge is full of fresh veggies; and my counters runneth over with all kinds of fresh fruit.
I’m finding myself spending a lot of time in the kitchen these days. In fact, I think the place is beginning to take on the look, feel, and smell of a Master Chef kitchen—or, at least, a real kitchen anyway; you know, like the one grandma used to have. I’m making my own Salty’s Sass-Ass V-8 cocktail, my own Salty’s Kick-Ass Salsa, and even learning to milk my own oats—because all alternative milks seem to contain salt—all with somewhat moderate success.
By the way, ever try to milk oats? YOU try it! You’ll find out it’s not as easy as it sounds. First, you’ve got to herd them up, then get them to stand still long enough, and always, always beware of swishing tails. Ah, but I digress…
My poor little wife—my principal care giver—is having to learn how to cook, or completely relearn how to cook in some old-timey ways; not the easiest of tasks for a modern, professional, working woman—and I of course, I’m “helping” her learn, but…
We’re learning to make a lot of things dairy free and salt free using lots and lots of oats and oat flour—because we’re trying to remain gluten free—i.e., oat tortillas, oat pancakes, oat bread, oat biscuits, various and sorted oat snackers. All in an effort to help keep me alive and relatively happy through all of this.
It leaves me feeling both appreciative and apologetic. Appreciative for all the extra trouble she, and others, have gone to on my behalf; and apologetic for my abnormal, hormonal behavior and all the goofy antics she’s, and others, are having to put up with.
But, at least, in some ways, I can now relate to a woman, I think, in a few ways that most men can’t; if you catch my drift. Furthermore, and most importantly, I can reassure and comfort her by saying, “Honey, now relax, this too shall pass; after all, all of this is only due to those terrible, vile things my mean ole doctors are doing to me. It’s not like it’s going to last forever, you know… not gender related or something that will keep reoccurring on a ‘periodic’ basis.”
Now where did those frogs go… has anybody seen my frogs???