Joseph Nunez never expected to have thyroid cancer in his mid-30s, but praised his multidisciplinary treatment team at the UM Medical Center with making him as comfortable as possible during the entire process.
I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in October 2003. I found out through a physical; I didn't have any symptoms. My primary care physician, Anne Martello, is very thorough. During the physical she felt my neck very vigorously and she felt something there. She also suspected a problem because I had slightly high blood pressure, which can sometimes indicate a thyroid problem.
The next day she had me go in for a thyroid ultrasound. In the ultrasound they found at least one large mass on my right thyroid. After that, a couple of weeks later, they did a needle biopsy. They found two that were affected.
Then I was referred to an endocrinologist, Dr. Mona Sabra. She suggested Dr. [Douglas] Turner because of his specialty in thyroid and parathyroid surgery. I met with him first in Nov. 2003 and we talked about a date for surgery. We decided on Jan. 8, 2004.
Dr. Turner is really nice and he's also very thorough and precise. He made me feel that he was on top of everything, and that nothing was going to be missed. Every question I had he had an answer for, and he talked to me about. He made me feel that I was important to him even though he had a couple of these he was doing a week, or even a day. He even sent me pictures of my thyroid after the surgery. He was really forthcoming with everything, both pre- and post-surgery.
It's pretty darn scary to think you're in your mid-30s and you're going for a pretty serious surgical operation around your throat. You worry about larynx and vocal chords, because you could come out speaking differently than you did in the first place. Fortunately, I sound the same as I did before. But Dr. Turner was really good about making me feel as comfortable and at ease as possible.
A Comfortable Experience
The morning of my surgery, my anesthesiologist came to the floor and she talked to me. My parents and fiancée were able to come back and see me.
The staff always made sure that my family knew how the surgery was going. It couldn't have been more positive on the day of surgery and the day after. Everything just went very nicely and they did as much as they possibly could have done to make it as easy and comfortable as possible.
The first thing I remember in the post-op room as I was waking up was asking the nurse 'Am I alive?' And she said 'Of course you are!' She was wonderful. She'd sit there and she'd feed me ice for my throat. She asked about my level of pain and gave me medicine if I needed it. She would talk to me and I would tell her jokes. It was really nice. That night I was in my room and people came in. I saw Dr. Turner three hours after the surgery. They even let my fiancée stay in the room overnight.
It felt like the hospital staff really cared, they were really attentive. Every time the nurses came in my room, they were always just cheery and happy. Everybody was nice; it was a good experience. It was really comfortable. I hope my next hospital experience will be just as comfortable as it was here.
I had a total thyroidectomy on Jan 8, 2004. I stayed overnight and went home the next morning. I spent the day recovering and the next day my mom came here and we went to a winery. Eight days later I spoke at a conference, and even went skiing while I was there, so I had a really fast recovery.
People say 'Wow, you recovered really fast.' The scar doesn't look like much. I've taken good care of it (the scar). But then I've also healed pretty quickly and I think that's because I stay in shape and that I'm conscious about it. So I feel pretty good. If you hadn't told me I didn't have a thyroid I wouldn't know. Sometimes I feel tired but otherwise, I feel fine. Now I'm back to normal.
To compensate for the loss of the thyroid, I take thyroid hormones daily.
I saw Dr. Turner twice in that first two-week period after the surgery and once a month after. He said I could see him again but I don't feel the need.
When I see him on the street he says hi and we talk. We're relatively the same age and we're both doctors; it's made the interaction nice and comfortable.
I've been trying to get my brother, who has a benign growth in his neck, to come here from California for the surgery because I felt so comfortable with Dr. Turner.