Thyroid Cancer: My Story

by Columbia Surgery on September 4, 2013

 
By Erica Ervin

In the fall of 2011, three months after my wedding, I began to experience some strange health issues including an irregular heartbeat and panic attacks. I was just 31 at the time, and I have always exercised regularly, eaten a well balanced diet, and have been very healthy. Since we had just recently moved to New York from Maine, my husband and I had not yet found a new doctor, so it was not until January 2012 that I saw my new primary care provider. He could not find anything via physical examination or testing to cause my symptoms. Fortunately, he did not give up looking. Although the results of my thyroid blood test had been normal, he observed that my thyroid felt perhaps a little bit swollen, so he sent me for an ultrasound of my neck. To my great surprise, my thyroid was enlarged and had multiple nodules growing on both sides of it. Soon after, a biopsy confirmed that I had thyroid cancer.

My initial reaction to the “C” word was panic and fear. But once I met with Dr. Lee, I was reassured that this was just going to be a bump in the road of life.  I underwent a complete thyroidectomy in March 2012, and the only required treatment afterwards was a radioactive iodine pill. My symptoms completely disappeared, and a few months after surgery, my tiny 1-inch incision faded away.

I wish I could say my story ended there, as it does for many people, but mine continued. After a year of good health, regular visits to my endocrinologist, and new routine of taking my Synthroid pill each morning, it was discovered through a follow-up neck ultrasound and biopsy that the cancer had come back in one of the surrounding lymph nodes. So at the end of June 2013, Dr. Lee performed my second surgery, a Modified Radical Neck Dissection.  During this procedure, he removed over 20 lymph nodes from the right side of my neck. It was a more invasive procedure than the first, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at my incision site. My scar is longer now, but already has faded so much it is virtually unnoticeable. I will again be taking a radioactive iodine pill the end of this month to complete my treatment. But I feel great and I have returned to my daily routines.

Thyroid cancer

Just two and a half months after her second surgery, Erica Ervin’s incision has become quite inconspicuous

I am so thankful for all of my amazing doctors and my incredibly supportive husband, family, and friends. They all made this experience much easier for me to get through. Dr. Lee was a large part of the reason I have gotten through this twice, knowing that everything would be ok in the end. During my office visits, he would sit with my husband and me until we had run out of questions to ask, answering each one thoroughly, always patient and with a smile. With him, I truly have had the very best care!

My fingers are crossed that this will be the end of it, and the only reminders of this life event I will hopefully have are my faded scar and the pill I take each morning.

Learn about thyroid cancer and its treatment at the New York Thyroid Center.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia H. September 9, 2013 at 9:26 pm

I enjoyed reading your story Erica and continue to keep you in my prayers. :)

Ron C. December 30, 2013 at 3:35 am

I thought that the radioactive pill is suppose to get rid of all the thyroid tissue, thusly getting rid of the any chance of the cancer to return.

Columbia Surgery January 2, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Ron:

Thanks for your comment.

I am sending your question to our doctors in the New York Thyroid Center and soon as I hear back from them, I will forward their response to you.

Columbia Surgery January 2, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Ron:

According to Dr. James A. Lee, Chief of Endocrine/Thyroid Surgery, “The radioactive iodine therapy is designed to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue after surgical removal. However, sometimes the radioactive iodine is not able to accomplish this for a variety of reasons. For example, some individual thyroid cancers, may not take up the radioactive iodine very well. Therefore, the radioactive iodine therapy lowers the chance of cancer coming back, but cannot prevent it in all cases.”

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