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Alma Bantugan Toggenburger
Six months ago, I found a lump on the left side of my neck. I immediately scheduled an appointment with an Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist at Mission Hospital. At the appointment, the ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat doctor) said the lump was "nothing." He prescribed antibiotics and said if the lump wasn't gone in 1 week to come back and see him. I finished the antibiotics as directed and, to my surprise, the lump was still there. I quickly scheduled a follow up appointment with the ENT. When he walked into the examining room, he said "What are you doing here?" He insisted the lump was nothing that I would be fine and sent me on my merry way.
Fast forward 6 months later, the lump is still there and by my standards getting bigger by the day. So, I decided to get a second opinion. After 10 minutes into my appointment with Dr. Kaufman (a new ENT in Irvine), he said the lump had to be surgically removed. He said it would only get bigger and could get infected. Before I knew it, Dr. Kaufman was going into great detail of what the one hour surgery would entail. On March 11th at 7:00 am at the Laguna Hills Surgery Center, Dr. Kaufman removed the lump from my neck. He said the surgery went well...as planned with no surprises. The horizontal incision on my neck ended up being approximately an inch long.
Recovery went well and on March 18th, I had my 1 week follow up appointment to have the stitches removed. Since I assumed this was a routine appointment, I had Casey in tow. Dr. Kaufman removed the stitches and said the incision was healing nicely. Then he sat down and delivered the bad news. Dr. Kaufman proceeded to tell me the lump was not benign and it was CANCER. I was completely shocked and devastated. I prayed Casey didn't hear the word cancer, as only a month earlier her Aunt Jane lost her battle to colon cancer. Thankfully, Casey was preoccupied with a puzzle so she was oblivious to the conversation taking place. Dr. Kaufman said "You have papillary thyroid cancer, which is the most common of the thyroid cancers. Out of all the cancers...this is the best one to have." And although the cancer is in the early stages, the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes. Dr. Kaufman recommended I have my entire thyroid removed along with the lymph nodes in my neck. I've been referred to Dr. Michael Yeh, the Program Director of the UCLA Endocrine Surgery Team. Dr. Yeh is a top notch surgeon and was voted One of the Best Doctors in America for 2013. So no worries, I am in great hands!