What I learned in the plastic room

UCLA Health article

I was seeing my regular doctor, Jan Miyakawa M.D., for other reasons when she noticed a thyroid nodule. She has been my doctor for over 30 years and she is amazing. Because of regular check ups and a good relationship, she was able to notice this right away,

She said they are usually benign but we need to have it scanned. A biopsy followed which indicated I had papillary thyroid cancer.

I have an 11 year old, I run my own business and have a family that loves me dearly so the toughest part was hearing that I have cancer.

We did research and found out about Dr. Yeh. We also thought we would get an opinion from a place closer to where we lived. Dr. Yeh is very calm and the office is Zen like. I felt really good about it. Dr. Yeh told me that he wouldn't do anything I didn't need. We would see if we got it all before we proceeded to other steps.

I went to another very respected facility that was nearer my home. But the experience wasn't the same. It wasn't the right fit for me.

I needed someone who could calmly walk me through. I was introduced to Dr. Smooke who understood my fears as a mother. She helped me deal with the family stuff. I had the surgery a year ago and it went really well. All the staff was great.

They put a patch behind my ear and I woke up feeling really good - no nausea. The recovery room nurse was great.

Later it was found that the cancer had gone into lymph nodes and a little into muscles so I wasn't done yet. I needed radioactive iodine a few months later. Going to nuclear medicine was a little like being on a Discovery Channel episode. They broke down the facts and science for me which is what I needed. Dr. Shiepers told me what I was going to get is what terrorists want to make dirty bombs out of. He spent a long time talking to us and was so wonderful.

I went on a special diet for several months - a low iodine diet. Then I was locked into a room where everything was covered in plastic. The door was very thick and all the walls were draped in plastic. I was given a pill to swallow and then was checked with a Geiger counter.

I was locked in for 3 days and given lots of water to drink. It was hard to be alone and everything I had with me - books, phone - could not come out of the room.

The process was humbling. I can't say enough about the doctors. Looking back, the hardest part was the beginning because of the mental part. But going through I felt empowered as I was taking care of it.

The challenge is not to worry about every little thing signaling a reoccurrence. I am lucky cause I caught it early, it was very treatable and I had the best medical team.