TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — One little email changed my entire life.
An 8 On Your Side viewer reached out in June, concerned over a lump she saw on my neck while I was reporting. I had never noticed it.
She feared it was thyroid cancer, as she herself was a thyroid cancer survivor. Turns out, she was right.
That email led me to call my doctor and after a few tests and appointments, I was officially diagnosed with stage one papillary thyroid cancer on July 21. The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and I was scheduled for surgery six days later.
Dr. Gary Clayman of the Clayman Thyroid Center at Tampa General Hospital suspects my cancer had been slowly growing, undetected for years. Last Monday, he removed my entire thyroid along with 19 lymph nodes.
One of those cancerous nodes had grown dangerously close to my vocal cords and could have ended my career if left unchecked.
“All it had to do is break out of that lymph node and start growing into that nerve, and you would have a permanently paralyzed voice box for life,” Dr. Clayman explained.
All thanks to that wonderful viewer, I caught the cancer before it could keep spreading. After thanking her, we’ve stayed in touch (only by phone, because of the pandemic) but I hope we’ll be able to meet in person soon.
I never expected my story to go viral, but go viral it did indeed. Who would have thought the craziest part about having cancer wouldn’t be the cancer itself? The good news is we’ve been able to spread so much awareness about thyroid cancer in such a short amount of time, and I’m just getting started.
Tuesday I had the incredible opportunity to go on the Today Show to thank my guardian angel and help highlight the warning signs of thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer is a disease that disproportionately impacts women, and it’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young women. It is thankfully one of the most treatable cancers, but detection can be tricky, as it can be asymptomatic for years or disguise itself as something much less harmful.
Living thyroid-free will mean being on medication for the rest of my life but it’s a small price to pay to live cancer-free.
Aside from some soreness and hoarseness, I’m back to feeling like myself and ready to get back to work.
In addition, my mother and I plan to capitalize on advocacy that’s been created so far and establish a foundation to continue that mission. September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month and we hope to have more to announce soon.
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