Mother, Grandmother and Volunteer
“When people asked if I was going to the University of Michigan for treatment of my thyroid cancer, I told them I was very comfortable with my doctors and the treatment that I was receiving in Midland. MidMichigan and my physicians are phenomenal.”
She Stayed Calm, Studied, Asked Questions and Received Flawless Care for Thyroid Cancer
When busy mother, grandmother and volunteer Stephanie Ker of Midland felt a lump in her neck, she didn’t panic. She went to see her doctor, Amal Othman, M.D.
Dr. Othman assured Stephanie that an ultrasound would help them find out exactly what the lump was. When it turned out to be an enlarged thyroid caused by thyroid cancer, she still didn’t panic.
Dr. Othman referred her to Endocrine Surgeon Melwyn Sequeira, M.D.
Stephanie continued to stay calm as she read everything that she could find about thyroid cancer. She found that it is one of the most treatable cancers. She also learned the right questions to ask her physicians. “I communicated with my doctors, showed up early for appointments, and asked good questions that made it easy for them to guide me,” she said.
A few weeks after Stephanie discovered the lump, Dr. Sequeira performed a minimally invasive thyroidectomy to remove her thyroid gland. Compared with open surgery, the type of surgery Stephanie had left a smaller scar. “People told me I would have a scar across my neck from ear, but it’s actually less than three inches long,” she said. “They’re impressed with my scar because you can’t even see it.”
Having minimally invasive surgery also helped shorten Stephanie’s recovery time. Three days after the procedure she went shopping with her daughter who was visiting from New York, then she went to the elementary school where she volunteers and listened to children read.
After Stephanie was diagnosed, concerned people asked if she was going to the University of Michigan for treatment. “No,” she told them. “I’m very comfortable with my doctors and the treatment that I am receiving in Midland. MidMichigan and my physicians are phenomenal.”
In fact, Stephanie credits Dr. Othman, Dr. Sequeira and Endocrinologist Michael Miller, M.D., with “flawless” care.
“They communicated with me every step of the way and it was a very positive experience,” she said. “Dr. Sequeira was very caring and so accommodating. He answered my questions, and even called me on his day off.”
“My experience with Dr. Miller was equally good,” she said. “I asked him if he was comfortable following me through treatment, and his answer was a question, ‘Are you comfortable having me do so?’
“Even his staff were wonderful,” she said. “When I walk through the door they still greet me by name. They felt like family.”
While Stephanie still has a raspy voice and a slight loss of energy from the lack of thyroid hormone, she said she just makes sure to eat healthy, play it smart, exercise and take care of herself. “I have a great attitude,” she said. “This experience is not going to change who I am, and if it does, it will be only in a positive way.”
After her encounter with thyroid cancer, Stephanie better appreciates why doctors encourage patients to know their family history. “I didn’t know that my mother and sister had thyroid problems,” she said. “Since I didn’t know it, I didn’t include it in my medical history, and physicians were not alerted to look for signs of thyroid disease.”
A year earlier, she had a possible symptom of thyroid problems, a racing heartbeat that went away. “I might have recognized it as an early warning sign if I had known my family history,” she said.
Now Stephanie also urges others to take care of themselves. “I am so thankful that I keep in touch with my body,” she said. “People don’t even know where their thyroid is, and everyone should be checking their thyroid on a regular basis.”
Stephanie will have a final scan soon, and she and her physicians are hopeful that it will be negative.
“I am very fortunate that I caught it, and that I have these doctors,” Stephanie said. “In addition, people all over the world who have prayed for me, friends in my Bible study and friends on Facebook helped me through this experience. It means so much that they have shown their concern. Having a strong support system is a MUST.”
Stephanie also advises people to remember that what they read on the Internet is only a guide. “We are all made with different genetics,” she said. “Some things I read started to scare me, until I remembered Dr. Othman reminding me that we are different. That was great advice.”