Mari’s Story

Mari’s Story

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In July of 2021, my endocrinologist felt an enlarged area in my neck while palpating my thyroid. An ultrasound was ordered which revealed a suspicious area that needed further exploration. A biopsy followed which provided a diagnosis of papillary thyroid cancer. I was only 35 years old and certainly not expecting news like this!

I was referred to a surgeon who performed a total thyroidectomy in September 2021. I also received radioactive iodine that following December to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Bloodwork done during the spring of 2022 showed my thyroglobulin level had not come down within the acceptable range as expected after a thyroidectomy. A CT scan done in October 2022 showed a suspicious-looking lymph node above my aortic arch, and I was referred to a thoracic surgeon. She recommended waiting 90 days because doing a biopsy in that area would require anesthesia, and the lymph node abnormality could be due to a number of issues.

I was not comfortable waiting 90 days for additional information. I decided it was time for a second opinion and called ConnectCare3, an employer-sponsored nurse navigation & patient advocacy service. I knew a ConnectCare3 nurse could provide me with well-qualified physician options who could evaluate my current situation to help me determine if waiting was truly in my best interest.

My ConnectCare3 nurse navigator provided me with a list of physicians for my consideration, along with their contact information and appointment process. Her valuable research saved me precious time, and I felt confident her options were well-researched.

I chose to see specialists at a world-renowned institution suggested by my ConnectCare3 nurse navigator. On top of providing me with physician options, she also developed questions for the appointments, which set me up for success. Each appointment was productive and informative thanks to her input.

Following a biopsy, it was confirmed that the papillary thyroid cancer had spread to lymph nodes in my neck. I was scheduled for neck dissection surgery in April of 2023. During the extensive surgery, 95 lymph nodes were removed and 15 of them were found to be cancerous.

This health scare taught me several things:

  • Whenever you’re dealing with an illness, find yourself an advocate (a medical professional, if you’re lucky). I was fortunate to have a knowledgeable nurse navigator from ConnectCare3 who identified well-qualified physicians for me and armed me with questions for physician appointments. Her guidance was invaluable to me. She contacted me after every appointment to see if I needed clarification on anything and was a great sounding board.
  • The importance of seeking a second opinion. I am so thankful I did not heed the advice of my local surgeon who initially recommended I wait 90 days before proceeding with further diagnostic testing. Not only did my second opinion identify the cancer had spread to lymph nodes, but they also made me aware I have a BRAF mutation. Mutations in the BRAF gene cause it to stop working correctly and signals cells to divide uncontrollably, and normal cells quickly become cancerous.
  • Don’t ever take good health for granted!

I am incredibly grateful for the services of ConnectCare3 and want to encourage others to take advantage of all the valuable services they have to offer. The second opinion option offered by my nurse navigator significantly contributed to a better health outcome for me!

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ConnectCare3 is a confidential benefit for those covered under their employer’s health insurance plan. If you have questions or would like to see which ConnectCare3 service applies to you, contact us today.