Archive | March 2011

Now I can tell something’s happening: One week after radioiodine therapy

>Last Friday–exactly one week after my radioiodine treatment, my neck started to ache. First, it felt like a sore throat coming on. Later it felt like I’d slept wrong or somehow strained my neck (I couldn’t turn it to the right at all). By Sunday morning, I still felt like I do when I have a cold coming on–a general scratchy throat feeling, but I also felt something else: a dull ache in the front of my neck.

I’d wondered if this would happen. Besides getting sick from the initial dose of iodine (which I didn’t), I had heard that there might be some mild neck discomfort. For some reason, I thought this would happen right away. Instead, it’s come a week later. It makes sense. The iodine is absorbed into the body and slowly makes its way to the thyroid. Meanwhile, any that doesn’t make it is eliminated from the body within the first few days. So now there’s a concentration of the stuff hanging out around my radioactive neck. And now, I can tell something’s happening. The body hurts when something isn’t right. And it hurts now.

Maybe I’m nuts, but I still feel a strange sense of remorse over killing a part of myself. I wish I could keep at least part of it, just because. Then I’d feel less guilty; then I’d feel more whole. But the body doesn’t work that way. Apparently, if just a bit of the thyroid hangs around, because of the Graves’s Disease, my immune system will still be telling the thyroid to work overtime. And soon, I’d be right back where I started. This is why doctors try to prescribe enough radioactive iodine to kill off the entire thyroid, and why if they don’t, then a second dose of the treatment is needed.

So for now I will mourn the loss and promise my body I’ll try harder to take care of it in the future. And I’ll hope that I’ll never have to put it through anything like this–or worse–again.

Revising Happens After You’ve Finished Drafting

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I hear groans from my students at all stages of the writing process. But where I often get the most questions is when we get to revising. I already did that as I wrote, many will tell me. Now what do I do?
I remember vaguely how difficult it was to revise as you wrote back before there were computers. Type, type, type, pause, grab the white out, blow, check for dryness, type, type, type, repeat. Finish, read, mark changes with a pen, begin typing and correcting with white out again. For me, the process was a nightmare.
So much has changed with the advent of word processing software. Most of us now revise and edit constantly as we type. (I’ve done it dozens of times already, just in writing this article!) While this continuous reworking can be considered both a form of revising and editing—depending on the types of changes being made—unfortunately, this doesn’t make your work ready for publication.
Why not? Because odds are that the little changes you made as you wrote didn’t cover the scope of what needs to be done during the revising stage, including a consideration of your:
1.       Introduction: is what you have the best possible way to interest readers?
2.       Organization: have you placed elements in a logical fashion, broken down paragraphs so that each one focuses on only one topic, broken down large paragraphs to make it easy on readers, and included transitional words and phrases to help readers follow your train of thought?
3.       Details and Examples: have you provided enough to illustrate your point? Have you summarized general information and detailed important parts? Does each detail and example you’ve provided fit with your intended purpose for writing?
4.       Conclusion: is this the best possible way to draw the writing to a close? Have you left readers with enough closure that they will feel satisfied?
5.       Writing Style: Is the voice and tone appropriate for the audience?
Once you’ve evaluated each of these areas, you should get an idea of what changes need to be made. Revising will then mean adding, re-wording, and cutting, and every once in a while, it may mean starting over. But thanks again to our wonderful word processor, tossed away ideas are now easy to hang on to. And you never know when a tossed away idea may become useful in the future!

Where’s My Web-Slinging Action? Adjusting After Radioactive Iodine Treatment

>Where’s my web-slinging action? I asked my husband on our way home from getting my radioactive iodine treatment last Friday.

“Maybe it comes with time?” he answered.

I admit, we both secretly hoped that I’d suddenly find myself with some new superpower–even if it was small or only temporary. Or at the very least, I expected that I’d feel something.

But the fact was, if it weren’t for the fact that I remember taking the capsule that came in the scary lead package at the hospital and the fact that my doctor sent me home with explicit instructions to avoid public spaces and close contact with others, and follow specific rules of hygiene for the next 72 hours, I might  not have known that anything had happened at all.

That’s right: for those who are wondering, like I did: will I feel any different? In my case, the answer was a resounding “no”. I didn’t get sick, I didn’t get any neck or jaw pain, and I didn’t feel all glowy. Nothing. It’s been life as normal–except I had to be alone a lot for the first three days.

But my husband and I made the best of it: he made me special food for some meals and brought in fun take-out that we never have for others. We picniced in areas of the house we never dine–me in one of the rooms we’d set aside for my semi-isolation and he in the hall outside of it. We took walks each day…I just stood a little further away from he and the dog than I usually do. He camped out on the couch and I got to remember what it was like to sleep in a bed alone again (I didn’t kick anyone!), and it actually felt a bit like years ago when we were dating (and it made us miss each other all that much more, which is always a good thing for any relationship).

So I didn’t get superpowers. But when you compare it to the alternatives (getting sick from radiation or having to recover from surgery), I really think I got off okay.

Drafting: Creating a Writing Purpose and Getting Words on Paper

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The main goal of prewriting is to generate ideas. The main goal of drafting is two-fold: to create a purpose for writing and to get words on paper. Why not just dive in? Plan first and you’ll find revising (the next step of the writing process) will be a whole lot easier.
To discover your writing purpose, consider:
1.       Who are my readers?
2.       What do I want them to know?
3.       Why do I want them to know this
These three questions will get at the heart of three essentials to writing: Audience, Focus, and Thesis, which together form your purpose for writing.
Audience: who you are writing for. Who you are addressing will determine what you say and how you say it.
Focus: what you want your readers to know. You should have figured out in prewriting. If you’re still struggling with it, it’s best to do a few more prewriting exercises before trying to move on.
Thesis: why you want readers to know this. Together with your focus, knowing your thesis will help you determine your purpose for writing. All good writing has a clear purpose.
Once you’ve created a purpose for writing, keep it in mind as you begin drafting.
This being said, don’t over-scrutinize your work as you write. Your main goal in creating a first draft is just to get words on paper. There will be plenty of time to make it good in the next stage of the writing process: revising.
Note: you may think that creating a writing purpose applies only to non-fiction. Not true! I’m not a literary agent, but I’d bet much of the fiction they reject stems from the writer not considering who, what, or why as they created their story.

Partial Suicide: 48 Hours After Radioactive Iodine Treatment

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“Have you ever wanted to kill yourself?” my husband asked as we discussed my hyperthyroid treatment options.
“Not really,” I answered, giving him my ‘What are you suggesting?’ look.
“Well, I just thought that if you had, then now you could fulfill part of that dream—you know, since part of you would die.”
Part of me would die…
I think that has been the toughest part about this whole thing. Not only was a part of me dying, but an innocent victim was being executed. It wasn’t my thyroid’s fault. It was my immune system’s. Or was it?
Graves’ Disease is an autoimmune disorder, commonly understood to be brought on by stress. Under prolonged stress, the immune system gets…let’s say confused, and it sends false messages to the thyroid, telling it to produce more thyroid hormone. This in turn speeds up the heart and increases metabolism, causing life to get pretty uncomfortable and confusing.
The three primary treatment options offered by western medicine get at the symptoms of the disease, rather than the cause. It may be my thyroid that’s causing my heart to beat erratically, but it’s my immune system that told it to do so.
But before we start blaming the immune system for wrecking havoc on our lives, let’s look again: why did it start telling the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormones in the first place? Stress.
Stress causes a whole host of problems in the body, knocking systems out of whack. The immune system is just one of many.
At the point at which we realize that stress is the cause of our illness, many of us want to point our finger at the rest of the world for making it so hard on us. But the fact remains that while we can’t control what our external environment is like—bosses, bills, screaming kids, annoying co-workers, we can control our internal environment.
The sooner we learn to calm the oceans inside of us, the happier and healthier we will be.
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