July 2012


It is getting easier to talk about having had cancer. Just a couple of days ago I chatted with a friend from Harvard who told me that he had a completely different experience than mine. He told his physician about a lump and his physician insisted on seeing him in a few days.


I was very touched to hear from someone in Nashville that reading about my feeling of being dissed by VUMC was emormously helpful to her; she no longer felt that it was only her that had such experiences, that somehow it was her fault.


A contributor to "Daily Strength" writes that her Vanderbilt physician told her that she had an enlarged thyroid and "DID NOTHING."  It seems that she too thought that if her physician did nothing there was nothing to be concerned about. If you have an enlarged thyroid, my understanding is that an ultrasound and bloood tests for thyroid function are the recommended next steps (to be taken soon).  Kenneth Ain's website on thyroid cancer is a great resource, freely available. 






Cancer Survivors

A Cancer Survivor responsed to my post. Below is his response and my reply.  From when he first brought his lump to the attention of a physician until seeing a third doctor was only four months.


July 2012: 

Hi Myrna,

I just read your web site, in some ways, my experience was similar to yours.

Driving home one night in Sept 2010 I was rubbing my neck and found a lump sort of beside my adams apple. I immeadiately called my Primary Care and saw her very shortly. She palpated the lump told me that it was a lymph node and that lymph nodes will swell up for various reasons and not to be worried. She thought it best to wait and see and that most likely it would go down on its own in a month or two. In a moment of clairvoyance, I asked if it could be thyroid related, she palpated my thyroid, found it to be normal and said it was very unlikely.

Come the begining of November, it was still there and I asked for another appt only to find my doctor would be away for some weeks and I could go to the doctor who was covering for her. I made the appt and also called my old Primary Care who I had been forces to leave for insurance reasons about three years previously to see if he would take me back and also how quickly he could see me if he did, he had changed practices by then. He took me back and was able to see me almost as quickly as I would have been seen otherwise. He also palpated the lump and said that since there hadn't been any discernable change in 2 months I should see a general surgeon. I saw the general surgeon in early Dec and he also palpated and said, "It doesn't feel like any Lymphoma to me." I think this comment by him is telling in that each of the doctors I had seen up to that point were probably looking for Lymphoma and not finding it. He then suggested a fine needle aspiration but, in a moment of clairvoyance for him, decided it would be better for me to go to a head and neck surgeon instead. The end of Dec I saw the head and neck surgeon who scheduled a lymphadenectomy for 1/18/11. He took it out, put it under a microscope and found papillary thyroid cancer cells. To speed things up, I had a total thyroidectomy and right side neck disection {50+ nodes} on 2/8/11, RAI on 4/14/11 and good follow ups since.

Before the neck surgeon performed the surgery, he had a sonogram done to see what it could find. Since the four cancer foci found were all under 2.6 mm, it found nothing, a sonogram can't resolve things smaller than 5 mm.

At the time, I was angry about my experience with the Primary Care doctor I saw in Sept 2010, but after what subsequently occurred, I don't see how she did anything wrong. If 100 patients exhibit with exactly the same symptoms as I, her diagnosis would probably be right 99 times. I just had the bad luck of being the 100th patient.



Hi Alan

Thanks for your response. It was interesting and informative. While there are some similarities – we were both angry -- your experience is quite different than mine.  When alerted to your lump, your PCP saw you almost immediately. Your old doctor saw you fairly quickly also and then sent you to a surgeon. Within only 4 months, you had seen your PCP, had a follow up on her advice (since the lump did not go down) and had surgery scheduled.  That was speedy!

My VUMC PCP delayed for 5 and a half months after being notified by both myself and my gynecologist that I had an enlarged thyroid. Five and a half months of brushing aside my requests for an appointment.