Papillary thyroid cancer survivor on clinical trials: ‘Stable is the new remission’

Debbie Ann Heckeroth wants everyone to know it’s possible to live a good life while having stage IV cancer. Debbie lived in California when she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in 2002. She went through a few rounds of radioactive iodine treatment there before her physician discovered tumors in her lungs. In 2004, her thyroid cancer reached stage IV, and she was told she needed to go to another hospital for clinical trials. “You’d think the hardest thing would be being told you have cancer,” Debbie says. “But being told, ‘There’s nothing more we can do for you at this facility,’ you’re in a daze. You walk around trying to figure out how it could possibly be that you’re in your early 40s and you’ve just been told, ‘This is it.’” When she was told that clinical trials were in her future, she immediately knew that she wanted to go to MD Anderson. “I chose MD Anderson not only because it was recommended by friends, but also because of its worldwide reputation,” she says. Finding hope in a Phase I clinical trial “My first doctor was Naifa Busaidy, M.D. I was completely happy with her. She would not leave the room until every single question I had was answered to exactly my level of expectation,” Debbie says. “I also had a lot of hope. Not only did I feel like I would live, I felt by the time that something needed to be done again, the progress was going to be made here with the clinical trials or new medications was going to help me.” In 2008, Debbie...