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7 Tips for Radioactive Iodine Treatment Isolation

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Radioactive iodine treatment isolation is hard. You don’t feel well, are tired, and are lonely. The low iodine diet makes eating challenging. The world is still reeling from your surgery and cancer diagnosis in the first place. The treatment itself can have unpleasant side effects.

However, it’s all in how you look at it. Radioactive iodine treatment isolation does not have to be the worst 5-8 days of your life.

Today, I’m sharing 7 tips that helped me get through my radioactive iodine treatment isolation periods.

Focus on the Positive

Mindset is at least half the battle with isolation. There are plenty of negatives in your life going into isolation. I’ve listed just a few above.

But if you focus on all the negatives, it could be the most depressing time. Try to find things to be positive about. Like what? Here are some examples:

  • Are you an introvert? Hello alone time.
  • You have an excuse to work on time consuming projects.
  • Catch up on sleep.
  • You only have to do one radiation treatment, not multiple treatments like other cancers.
  • Thyroid cancer has a high survival rate.

Each individual person can find something positive for their situation. When I had my radioactive iodine treatment, I was in grad school. My thesis committee had decided I needed to re-do the entire data set for my project. That was hours of just sitting at my computer re-coding a giant excel spreadsheet. Wouldn’t you know, during my isolation, I had all those hours to sit and do it, with nothing else pressing on my time and attention. That doesn’t mean it was “fun”, but definitely not as stressful if my regular life was also happening right then.

Be a Little Selfish

Other than being careful not to expose others to radiation, you do not need to put others first during this time. What to do I mean?

Choose a room with a comfy bed or couch. Choose a room with a TV. Take over the passwords for the video streaming services. Found a low iodine treat you love? Don’t share it with others. You are the most important thing right now. Focus on you.

Indulge

It can be hard to indulge on the low iodine diet, but you can do it. I got a giant bag of gummy bears and ate the whole thing. I binge watched Jane Austen movies.

Craving a fountain diet Coke? Order a DoorDash.

Bored? Sign up for a new video streaming service for a few days.

Do some online shopping.

Watch cat videos on youtube.

Do whatever makes you feel good. Even if it seems frivolous.

Set a Fun Goal

Focus on something you want to do but never have time to do. Be creative!

  • Watch all of a TV series or movie series.
  • Read all the Harry Potter books, War and Peace, you get the idea.
  • Do 10 push ups everyday. (Or increase your push ups every day).
  • Try new kinds of gummy candies.
  • Learn a language. (or a bit at least)
  • Complete a house project or craft project.
  • Learn a new skill, like knitting, painting, etc. YouTube is full of how-to videos.

Reach Out

Radioactive iodine treatment isolation is…well…isolating. Even introverts get lonely after awhile. Your friends and family are likely looking for ways they can help but don’t know what to do. Reach out. Connection will help the time go by and help you feel less alone.

Set up phone or zoom calls to catch up with people. Ask someone to bring lunch to your door. Eat on your porch and chat while they sit in the front yard. Ask a friend to pick up some supplies you may need. Don’t think you have to do this on your own.

Hygiene

You are strongly encouraged to have good hygiene post radioactive iodine. The iodine comes out in your bodily secretions – saliva, sweat, urine. Showering daily and frequent tooth brushing are included in thyca.org’s list of recommendations.

However, I mean a step beyond this. Put on some comfortable but decent clothes. Do your hair. Maybe put on make-up. The more “normal” you feel, the better you will feel. If you are sitting around in pjs, you will feel tired and down all the time. Perk yourself up a bit.

Get Out

Just because you have to be in isolation, does not mean you have to stay inside 4 walls. Go for a walk. Get some sunshine. Breathe fresh air. Be cautious in staying away from people, obviously. But going outdoors can be a real boost.

Get creative in where you go. Walk in a park or different area than you normally do. Once I was clear to leave my apartment but still needed to be cautious, I went to a movie in the middle of the day. I got there right as the movie started to ensure I could pick a seat a distance from others. It was fun.

There are plenty of ways that radioactive iodine treatment isolation is hard. Focus on being creative, helping yourself, and having fun as best you can. The time will go much quicker!

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