Teen papillary thyroid cancer survivor: ‘There is no good type of cancer’

Bethany Fischer was nearing the end of the eighth grade when she developed a thumb-sized bruise in the hollow of her neck that wouldn’t go away. She also began having trouble swallowing. “It felt like I had a frog in my throat, or maybe a sock,” says the now 16-year-old sophomore. Bethany told her mother what was going on right away. “My heart just kind of stopped,” says her mother, Elizabeth Fischer. “My sister used those exact same words to describe how it felt when she had thyroid cancer, but I never shared that with Bethany.” Elizabeth’s brother also died of a throat tumor (rhabdomyosarcoma) when he was five. Elizabeth took Bethany to see her pediatrician immediately. The League City doctor ordered an ultrasound, a test using contrast dye, and finally, a fine-needle biopsy. Then she sent Bethany to a pediatric endocrinologist, who diagnosed the teen with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and gave her an oral supplement. The endocrinologist also referred Bethany to MD Anderson for a second opinion. A papillary thyroid cancer diagnosis Bethany and her mother came to MD Anderson in early May 2015. Here, they met with endocrinologist Steven Waguespack, M.D., who discovered that Bethany actually had stage I papillary thyroid cancer. The tumor in her neck was almost two centimeters (or about an inch) long, and the cancer had spread into four out of five nearby lymph nodes. “I was kind of shocked,” Bethany says. “That’s not a normal thing you hear when you’re 14. Most kids are worried about school and stuff, but I was wondering how it was going to affect my life. That’s the...