She recalled with horror the way the radioactive iodine treatment was administered: "This nurse had on these radiation gloves up to her elbows and took the pill out with these tongs and said, 'Open your mouth.' It scared the hell out of me."
The procedure remains much the same today, said Shawn Farley, a spokesman for the American College of Radiology. Radioactive iodine pills are usually kept in lead capsules, he said, and medical personnel and patients alike use lead-lined gloves when handling them.
Asumaa said she spent the next two days living like a leper. People weren't allowed to be within six feet of her because of the radioactivity, she said, and she had to flush the toilet twice when she used it.
"I felt fine for those two days, and then I felt really awful, like I had the worst flu ever," Asumaa said. With her thyroid gland gone, she began to experience hypothyroidism. She said she put on weight quickly, gaining about 30 pounds in a month. It took about six weeks to figure out the right dose of thyroid hormone, to bring her back to normal, she said.
Or sort of back to normal. "I'm not even sure what normal feels like anymore, to be honest with you," she said. "I get more tired than the normal person, and I have to take it easier."
In 2006, Asumaa was diagnosed with thyroid eye disease, a common side effect of hyperthyroidism. The condition, in which the eyes bulge, is slightly painful and somewhat unsightly, she said, but she's dealing with it as she's dealt with all her thyroid problems.
"I'll have it for the rest of my life," Asumaa said. "I have good days and I have bad days. Every few weeks I'll go through a cycle like that, where I don't feel so great and don't have a lot of energy. But I can function. I work. I have a happy life."
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