News from Parkwest Health & Lifestyles

A diagnosis of thyroid cancer carries with it both good news and bad news.

Carolyn Allison and her dog Pepper are
enjoying life to the fullest after Allison’s

“When it’s detected, the success rates of surgical and medical treatment are very high,” says Parkwest general surgeon Will Gibson, MD of Premier Surgical Associates. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s still cancer.

“You’re in shock at first when you hear ‘the Big C,’” says Carolyn Allison, a thyroid cancer patient treated at Parkwest Medical Center. “I had my little crying spell, and I called my family, but it’s okay, I’m doing good.”

Allison smiles with confidence now as she sits on a sofa in her West Knoxville home. She has a positive outlook, and is always ready for a laugh. Her backyard is a homegrown Garden of Eden with flowering plants and wind chimes, and her passion for planting and nurturing is evident. An energetic little dog named Pepper follows her everywhere she goes. It is a life well lived, and a life more treasured since her surgery at Parkwest.

A nodule was detected on Allison’s thyroid gland as a result of another hidden medical problem being revealed.

It was before her retirement, when Allison worked for the State Department of Children’s Services. Allison transported children to safe places throughout the Southeast. It was a job she enjoyed, she knew she was making a difference, and it took a lot to convince her she needed a day off.

“I had gotten up one morning and showered, I walked in the closet and reached up to get a shirt to put on, and blacked out,” Allison says. “I woke up in the floor.”

“I felt so bad that day I could hardly pick my feet up,” Allison says. The blackout hadn’t been enough to alarm her, but the fact that it had affected her work convinced her something was wrong. She made an appointment with her physician, and discovered her blood pressure was 201 over 111. “That’s stroke  level,” Allison says somberly.

In addition to prescribing blood pressure medication, the doctor ordered an ultrasound on Allison’s carotid arteries as a precautionary measure. That’s when he noticed a nodule on Allison’s thyroid.

Dr. Gibson says nodules on the thyroid are most often discovered that way. The nodules themselves don’t come with any signs or symptoms. They show up when another medical problem is detected.

“People get their carotid arteries in their neck X-rayed, looking for vascular disease of the arteries, or people with disease in their cervical spine may get a CAT scan or an MRI that picks up on the nodules,” Dr. Gibson says.

For Allison, the discovery turned out to be critically important. Keeping up with her regular appointments to monitor the nodule, Allison’s doctor sent her for an MRI checkup in January of this year.

The nodule had grown, so a biopsy was ordered. Two weeks later, Allison received a call recommending she either have surgery to remove her thyroid, or come back for another biopsy in six months.

The biopsy had raised suspicion of cancer, but hadn’t confirmed cancer’s presence. Waiting was an option, but Allison wanted to be proactive and get it taken care of immediately.

After her doctor recommended the Premier Surgical surgeon, Dr. Gibson reviewed Allison’s case and performed a thyroidectomy on April 11, 2016, but not until he made sure his patient was completely informed and comfortable with the procedure.

“Dr. Gibson explained everything in detail, and he answered all my questions,” Allison says. “He even drew a diagram showing the thyroid over my trachea, and where the nodule was.”

She says she was treated well at Parkwest Medical Center. “Those people were so kind to me,” Allison says. “They were just super nice.”

The surgery revealed the presence of cancer, but with the thyroid gone, so was the threat. The day after surgery, cancer free, Allison was able to get up, shower, and prepare to go home to Pepper.

“The whole experience was great,” Allison says. “As you can see, I am healed up really well.” Looking back, Allison can now recognize some signs that her thyroid might not have been working properly. “I had gained some weight and I thought it was just because I had been through menopause,” Allison says. “But I think the thyroid had a lot to do with that.”

She says she had also noticed a general lack of energy, “I just figured everything sort of slows down with age.”

All that’s changed since her thyroidectomy. Allison’s energy level is up, and she’s started getting back to her goal weight, losing 12 pounds in the two months after surgery with no changes to her diet or exercise routine.

“If I could just sing like Adele, I’d have it made, wouldn’t I?” Allison

To learn more about thyroid surgery, visit our Premier Surgical thyroid webpage.