May 29, 2010 - 1:34 pm
As an infant I was radiated in 1946 for an enlarged thymus gland in the mistaken belief that this would prevent SIDS. The amount of radiation I absorbed was equal to ten common CT studies today. This treatment was commonly used in major hospitals and even pediatricians’ offices across the country. Thousands of infants and children were given radiation treatments that would later result in many developing both cancer and radiation-induced heart disease.
My mother—as no doubt many other mothers—held me on her lap, to make it easier for the radiologist to administer the x-rays. The cancer she developed from her own exposure to the radiation that passed through my 5 month old body to hers, was one of the causes of her death many years later.
After surviving leukemia at age four, I spent the next thirty years in and out of hospitals for illnesses that seemed to have no identifiable cause. When my mother was diagnosed with a cancer the oncologist told her could only have come from exposure to large doses of radiation, she explained she had never been in that situation even as an emergency room nurse at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.
After further questioning from the doctor she remembered our experience with x-ray treatments. The doctor said he’d studied in med school that erroneous diagnosis and x-ray treatment. He said, I assume your son died a long time ago since he received the bulk of the ionizing radiation. No, she told him. My son has had a lifetime of serious illnesses, including being placed at one time under hospice care for over four years.
The doctor told her to call me and for me to get to an endocrinologist immediately because I most certainly had thyroid cancer. I did as told and the endocrinologist said he could see from across the room that I had an abnormal thyroid. It turned out to be Stage 3 metastasized thyroid cancer. After a thyroidectomy and radiation treatments (ironically to treat what had caused the disease in the first place) I slowly recovered.
I take synthroid that is carefully monitored for correct dosage and the devastating symptoms caused by my thyroid cancer have been controlled.
I am currently working on a book about the history of radiation for benign conditions, especially on children, and would be very interested to hear other’s stories. You may also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org