Today I returned home from my exile to the West Virginia mountains after receiving my iodine-131 treatment last week for thyroid cancer. While there was certainly a “vacation” aspect to the whole thing (yes, I got to do a lot of skiing, thank you very much), it’s good to be home and rejoin my family.
It’s kind of a weird thing to be away because you’re “sick,” but not really be sick. On Monday, a coworker set up a webcam so I could listen in on an all-hands meeting (I was still working remotely, after all), and one of the account managers asked how I was. I was fine, my coworker said. “She’s been skiing,” he told her. I suddenly felt a little guilty that I was spending a week at a ski resort in January, ostensibly for health reasons. It all seemed kinda shady.
So I went into full-on justification mode. I Instagrammed my doctor’s note, and in a call to my boss (who, I must say, has been understanding and supportive beyond all expectations), demonstrated the radiation detector, first held away from me, and then held up to me. (When held up to my neck, that thing still goes off the rails.) As if I needed to prove, more to myself than to others, why I needed to remove myself from my family and friends for a little while.
This is just how I am. Completely insecure and caught up in how I appear to other people. I’ve always been this way. I’m obsessed about how other people think of me, even though I know, intellectually, that I shouldn’t care so much. I do, period. And if I’m doing something that even hints at hypocrisy, the massive guilt trip is sure to follow. I blame it on being raised in a mixed Jewish/Catholic household; I became an expert at giving myself guilt trips.
Testing the Limits of Introversion
I’ve always been an introvert — a headphones-on and let me code kind of girl. So I thought a week by myself would be a breeze. But after a few days of my most meaningful human contact being with strangers I chatted with on ski lifts, even I was starting to go stir-crazy. Sure, I facetimed with the husband and kids every night, sometimes multiple times, but think about it… How often do you go through a day talking to no one except your family? Really, not that often. Maybe weekends, but that’s really it. I missed the contact with my peers at work, and felt very much like I was out of sight, out of mind.
(I’m not sure that if I ever were to contemplate leaving my current employer that returning to a predominantly work-from-home lifestyle would really be a good fit for me. Fortunately, it’s not something I need worry about now.)
Even though I’m home, I’m still keeping a bit of physical distance between myself and my children, at least for another week or two as the radiation dies down (fortunately, iodine-131 only has a half life of eight days). But it’s good to be home and be able to hug my kids and read them a bedtime story. I’m reading on various thyroid cancer forums that some people have to repeat the radioactive iodine process multiple times, and with much higher doses than I received. My heart goes out to them and the disruption in their lives that this causes.
I’m going to work from home tomorrow, for no really good reason except that it seems silly to “return” (I put that in quotes since I’ve been working most every day during my exile) to work on a Friday, and because I haven’t been at home in nearly two weeks. It would be nice to walk the kids to and from school, and spend a little bit of extra time with them.
I’m not a very sentimental person, but I’ve had a lot of time to think about and appreciate the people around me. Thanks to everyone, both IRL and via Twitter who let me vent, talk on Skype until the wee hours, or put up with my incoherent rantings over instant message. Thanks also to my coworkers who really did show that I wasn’t actually out of sight, out of mind. You all help keep me sane. Well, at least keep me from going more insane than I already am.