Metastatic medullary thyroid cancer survivor: MD Anderson’s expertise brought me relief
When Becky Post began having digestive issues in 2012, she chalked them up to stress from work and recent international travel. It wasn’t until her best friend pointed out that the issues had been going on for several months that Becky decided to see a doctor.
During the appointment, Becky’s doctor noticed that her thyroid was enlarged, which imaging tests confirmed. Becky was referred immediately to a surgeon near her home in California.
The surgeon explained that her thyroid was so large, it was pressing on her windpipe. Biopsies of her lymph nodes and thyroid were inconclusive, so Becky was scheduled for surgery to remove her thyroid and a lymph node to send off for testing.
Becky was told that if lymphoma was discovered during her surgery, the procedure would be around six hours. If thyroid cancer was suspected, the surgery would take almost twice as long.
“When I woke up from surgery, the first thing I asked was, ‘What time is it?’ Based on the length of surgery, I knew I had thyroid cancer,” recalls Becky, who was 32 at the time.
When Becky began researching treatment options, she learned her local doctor had very little experience in treating the disease. That’s when she became her own strongest advocate.
“I had to dig in and learn all about it. I went to conferences and joined support groups. I learned everything I could about this disease,” explains Becky.
In October 2013, Becky was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after she experienced numbness from the chest down. This added a new layer of complications to her thyroid cancer treatment options. Shortly after that, Becky found out she was pregnant after suffering several miscarriages, she gave birth to her first son in September 2014.
For the next few years, Becky focused on her health, changing her diet to focus on whole foods and starting preventive treatment to manage symptoms of her multiple sclerosis. Because her cancer was slow-growing, she was not on active cancer treatment but was closely monitored by a team of doctors. She had blood work to check her tumor markers every quarter and underwent CT scans and MRIs twice a year to check the growth of her lesions. Her cancer markers remained stable.
Though she’d been told she likely wouldn’t be able to have any more children after her first, Becky gave birth to her second son in August 2018. The following month, scans showed her metastatic lesions had grown and she would need to begin another round of treatment. That’s when Becky decided to call MD Anderson.
After meeting with oncologic endocrinologist Mimi Hu, M.D., Becky and her husband decided to take a leap of faith and move to Houston to be closer to MD Anderson. She was struck by Dr. Hu’s experience, knowledge and care.
“It was such a relief to come here. To have doctors who knew what they were doing. I didn’t have to try so hard anymore,” says Becky, who began taking two synthetic thyroid medications, levothyroxine and Cytomel.
Looking to the future – and more medullary thyroid cancer treatment options
“This past year was the first year in a long time where things with my cancer are just stable,” Becky says. “Dr. Hu is very realistic and has several plans in place for my treatment options should things progress. She and her staff are just great to work with. Any time I have questions, they call me.”
Becky is able to get her routine blood work and scans at MD Anderson West Houston, which is closer to her home. Looking forward, Becky and her care team are excited about two new chemotherapy drugs, selpercatinib and pralsetinib, that were recently approved to treat medullary thyroid cancer. When the cancer progresses, Becky says she will try them. Once she begins these chemotherapy drugs, she will need to continue taking them for the rest of her life.
“If you have medullary thyroid cancer, go to a place that has experience treating this disease. Don’t stay with doctors who don’t have the experience because you aren’t going to get the care you need,” Becky tells other patients. “If you feel something is off about your body, see a doctor. If that doctor doesn’t listen, find another one. Keep pushing.”