Thyroid cancer survivor finds ways to cope during radioiodine therapy quarantine

Veronika Fitzgerald is still amazed by the events that led up to her papillary thyroid cancer diagnosis. In the fall of 2015, she began experiencing complications from a 2006 gastric band surgery. When she went to her surgeon to discuss her options, he performed a routine physical exam and noticed her thyroid felt a little swollen. “He said, ‘It’s not a big deal; a lot of women have it. I’m sure it’s nothing, but I would go and have it checked,’” she recalls. An ultrasound ordered by her family doctor led to a biopsy, and the results caught both of them by surprise. “My doctor took me in the room, put his hand on my knee and said, ‘It doesn’t look good. You have cancer,’” she says. “I started crying. I was just devastated.” But after both her mother and wife broke down in tears that day, she never cried about her diagnosis again. “I felt that I really had to be strong and handle it because they were so sad,” she says. Thyroid cancer treatment at MD Anderson Veronika called to schedule an appointment at MD Anderson in Sugar Land, which was close to her southwest Houston home. There, she met Steven Weitzman, M.D., and surgeon Mark Zafereo, M.D., for the first time. “Dr. Weitzman and Dr. Zafereo were so comforting,” she says. “They made me feel like everything was going to be OK.” Veronika had her surgery on Jan. 28, 2016. The initial plan was to remove only half of her thyroid, but during the procedure, Dr. Zafereo noticed that the cancer had spread to some nearby...