My thymoma treatment: Why I chose MD Anderson

When I found out I had thymoma — a rare tumor of the thymus gland — I knew I couldn’t stay in South Texas for my treatment. I’d been convinced for more than a decade that something was wrong with me, but nobody ever connected any of my symptoms with the mass growing slowly behind my sternum. Over the years, I’d seen a cardiologist for heart palpitations, a gastroenterologist for swallowing problems, an ophthalmologist for vision problems, a dermatologist for skin rashes, a neurologist for a facial weakness, an endocrinologist for thyroid problems and a rheumatologist for joint pain. It turns out all of those could’ve been caused by the tumor. But the only diagnoses I received were Hashimoto’s disease (a type of hypothyroidism) and Sjorgen’s syndrome. Both are considered autoimmune disorders. Then, in June 2018, I had a chest X-ray in preparation for a minor surgical procedure. It revealed a tumor the size of a tennis ball beneath my breastbone. My doctor wanted to refer me to yet another specialist: a thoracic surgeon. Instead, I called MD Anderson. As a school nurse, I knew that mine was an uncommon type of tumor, so I needed a higher level of expertise than I could find in Laredo. My thymoma treatment The following week, I traveled to Houston to meet with thoracic surgeon Dr. Mara Antonoff, pulmonary medicine specialist Dr. Edwin Ostrin and oncologist Dr. Phat Le at MD Anderson. They confirmed my chest tumor was an invasive thymoma and recommended chemotherapy to shrink it, then surgery to remove it. Unfortunately, the tumor didn’t respond much to chemotherapy. However, we...