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Focus on Cancer

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Monday, March 25, 2013

From a Survivor: What You Need to Know about Thyroid Cancer

At 30, Michelle LeBeau was diagnosed with advanced stage medullary thyroid carcinoma. Michelle sought treatment under the care of Marcia Brose, MD, at the Abramson Cancer Center. There is no known cure for medullary thyroid cancer and it is not responsive to traditional chemotherapy, but rather than sit back and do nothing, Michelle started the REACT Thyroid Foundation in 2011.

From L-R: Lori Cuffari, Dr. Marcia Brose,Michelle LeBeau,

You are the founder of REACT Thyroid Foundation. Why did you start it? 

After my own diagnosis with thyroid cancer I learned that there is no known cure and I would be dependent on clinical trials and other drugs to hopefully keep my cancer at bay. During one of my appointments with my oncologist, Dr. Marcia Brose, we got into an in-depth conversation about her work in the lab and the advancements being made in thyroid cancer research. I learned that despite the enormous efforts of very dedicated scientists and doctors around the country there was unfortunately little funding available to make everything happen. Dr. Brose is one of the leaders in thyroid cancer research and anyone who knows her is familiar with how passionate she is about the cause and her work. I left my appointment that day so inspired and with such a belief in her work that I felt compelled to help the doctors get the funding they desperately need. I was determined to send a message to family and friends to raise some money. On the plane ride home I continued thinking about it and said "Go big or go home Michelle!" and REACT Thyroid Foundation was born.

What were you diagnosed with? 

I was diagnosed with a rare form of stage IV thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), which had already spread extensively throughout both of my lungs.

You were young when you were diagnosed with thyroid cancer. How did that diagnosis affect the plans you had for your life? 

As you can imagine, being diagnosed with stage IV cancer was not what I was expecting at the age of 30. I went to the doctor because of a nagging cough with no idea that it would change my life forever. I was very determined to not let cancer define who I am but rather let it be one more interesting part of me. I have been very successful at doing that and have become so much more of a well rounded person because of it. My diagnosis helped me to realize how important it was to have a work/life balance, not sweat the small stuff and to live life to the fullest. This journey has not been easy in any way but it has been extremely rewarding. I have met so many amazing people, done things I never dreamt possible and become a source of inspiration for many. You’ve participated in clinical trials for thyroid cancer.

What do you want people to know about clinical trials and cancer research? 

When it comes to thyroid cancer, we rely heavily on experimental treatments and clinical trials. If you rewind just 8-10 years ago there wasn't even a viable treatment option for people with advanced stage thyroid cancer. Now we have 2 FDA approved drugs and several more clinical trial options available. None of this would have been possible without the strong and brave survivors who willingly participated in this unknown research to help better the future for all of us. Those individuals who participate in clinical trials are heroes who are paying it forward to make the future better for those who follow in their foot steps. In addition, the financial support of so many survivors, their family and friends plays a huge part in making these trials possible. There are multiple ways to get involved, including REACT Thyroid Foundation, and I encourage people to help in any way they can whether it be monetary contributions, volunteering of time or being an advocate to spread awareness for the fastest increasing cancer among men and women today.

Tell us 3 things you want everyone to know about thyroid cancer. 

  1. Thyroid cancer is the fastest increasing cancer among men and women today. 
  2. There is no known cure for advanced stage thyroid cancer, only treatments to help slow down its growth. 
  3. If detected early, there is a very good prognosis so asking for a neck check while at the dentist and your general practitioner is so important. 

Raise Money and Awareness for Thyroid Cancer 

Join the REACT Thyroid Foundation on Sunday, April 28 from Noon to 5pm at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ for a walk to raise awareness and money for thyroid cancer research.

Register for the REACT Thyroid Foundation’s Bold Steps to Fight Thyroid Cancer walk here.

Follow the REACT Thyroid Foundation on Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date information about the event, as well as information about thyroid cancer and thyroid cancer research.

Interested in learning more about how to support thyroid cancer research at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center? Contact Katie Dewees Detzel at or (215) 746-1927. 

Learn More About Thyroid Cancer 

Learn more information about thyroid cancer, thyroid cancer treatment and thyroid cancer research from the 2012 Focus On Thyroid Cancer Conference.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog for information about thyroid cancer and upcoming thyroid cancer events at Penn.

1 comment:

  1. We cannot wait to support React Thyroid Foundation and our ThyCa warriors on April 28th. Team ThyroidChange will be there!


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