I had to make the call.
It is time for a body scan to make sure that my thyroid cancer hasn’t returned. It is a routine scan, but it feels anything but routine. I try to tell myself that I am annoyed having to go through the process again. But the truth is I am annoyed and scared. Mainly scared. The annoying part is having to be at the hospital 3 days in a row for injections, blood tests, and finally taking “The Pill”. No, not that pill. This pill will light up my insides like a Christmas tree to see if there are any stray thyroid cells lurking somewhere in my body, which is the scary part. The kids are intrigued by the Christmas tree concept and their interest is piqued when they over hear my husband and I talk about who will take care of our 2 year old while I am radioactive.
“Why does Margo get to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s?” My son asks indignantly.
Cautious I say, “Mommy has to have a test and I shouldn’t be around Margo for a few days.”
“Why?” Rebecca asks.
So I explain that I have to have a test to make sure I am still healthy. I tell them that I am lucky that my cancer can be detected and treated easily with one pill. (If you have ever had to withdraw from Synthroid after a total thyroidectomy, easy isn’t the first word that comes to mind, but it suffices for an 8 yo.) I reassure my kids that if there is any cancer at all in my body, this one little pill will help the doctors see it.
I get my scan and go on my merry way. That is always the assumption. What I leave out, that even though it is a routine test, after one cancer scare, no test is ever routine and simple.
The last time I had a scan Isaac was 1 and Rebecca was almost 5. I had sent Isaac away for that test and Rebecca and I just didn’t touch, kiss, hug, or sit together for a few days. That made me feel pretty good.
“No honey, mommy can’t kiss you right now. My kiss could actually kill your thyroid.” That is good for a little girl’s self esteem, right?
My therapist recently asked how I felt about not having any contact with the kids for several days, I told her it depended on the day. But the truth is even when my kids are bears, I need to be able to hug them. Don’t all people need human contact to thrive? Touch becomes especially important when I am scared. I don’t like taking the radiation for many reasons, but a huge one is I don’t want to unintentionally hurt my kids. and in order to protect them, I stay away until it is over.
I got through cancer with a grin and bear it attitude. I count myself lucky to have been cancer free for the past 7 years. But I always worry how the kids will understand my cancer journey. What is their view of cancer? Are they going to be scared of it like I was, or will they have a more balanced approach because they have seen what I have been through and know that cancer isn’t a death sentence? Just a life long struggle.
Thankfully, my last few scans haven’t seemed to impact Rebecca, because she didn’t even remember they had happened. Instead she was thrilled this time that she would get to “take care” of Isaac while I was having the tests done.
“So, I get to make him lunch and stuff because you have bad stuff in your body?”
And then she starts making a grocery list.
Isaac turns to me and says, “Mommy, you need to call the police and ask them if it is OK for kids to be alone in the house.”
“Oh, Isaac, I will still be in the house. We just can’t snuggle like we do in the morning and I shouldn’t prepare your food for a few days until the radiation goes away.” I know my endo and I go overboard on the precautions, but I don’t want to be the one to kill their thyroids, instead I will let crappy genetics take care of that. Talk about Mommy guilt.
Rebecca implores, “But I still get to make him lunch, right? That is basically like I am babysitting him.”
“I guess it is, sweetie.”
“You are gonna pay me right?”
Isaac however wasn’t keen on this process. I wasn’t sure if it was the threat of his sister being his caregiver or not being able to be with me. After a few anxiety filled days we decide to send all three kids down to my parents. He just didn’t think he could go that many days without giving me a hug, and that for some strange reason made me feel better.
My kids do like me.
Rebecca made me promise that she could still watch Isaac even though they were going to be at Grandma’s. She, on the other hand, likes to keep it real for me.
Maybe I am the one who needs a more balanced approach to this whole cancer thing. My kids seem to be just fine.