Cancer has stalked Kate Dolan for years, threatening everything she holds dear. The Coeur d’Alene mother of two is forever vigilant after her battle with thyroid cancer.
“Yes, I am a cancer survivor but I don’t look at it that way,” Dolan said. “Other people have had far worse, and I feel so fortunate compared to what people have gone through.”
Dolan’s survival can be credited to closely monitoring nodules in her neck, dating back to 1993 when she noticed a lump in her throat. Living in Ohio at the time, her doctor ordered tests and the results were negative. She took a big sigh of relief.
Then right before her wedding to her future husband, Mike, a routine checkup caused more concern, something with her thyroid was amiss.
“I had Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder,” Dolan said. “I went on synthetic thyroid hormones to shrink the nodules.”
Five weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Clare, papillary thyroid cancer was discovered rampaging in Dolan’s thyroid.
“I finally have this beautiful baby and now this. They took what they thought was my thyroid gland out, but they found it was all lymph nodes, which were also full of thyroid cancer cells.” Two weeks later they removed her thyroid, which was engorged with cancer cells and was nearly unrecognizable to the surgeon.
“I was going through postpartum stuff before the surgeries and afterward I wasn’t allowed to lift my baby for a few weeks because of the incision,” Dolan said. Doctors placed her on radioactive iodine therapy to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue or cancer cells.
A few weeks after the radiation therapy, the Dolans moved to the Inland Northwest. “I didn’t have time to dwell on it,” said Dolan. “My husband and I were starting a brand-new life and I was moving a mile a minute. It really helped to be so occupied with raising a baby and focusing on other things.”
Just over a year after the surgeries, Dolan felt a small lump in her neck and immediately consulted her endocrinologist. The lump was too small to biopsy to determine if it was recurrent cancer. The doctor took no chances and ordered another round of radioactive iodine therapy.
The treatment was successful and Dolan credits her doctors for saving her life. She and Mike had another child, Dan.
“Fortunately, I had a very treatable form of thyroid cancer,” she said. “Others aren’t so lucky.”
She still undergoes annual body scans, routine ultrasounds, and blood tests to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.
Today, Dolan is able to look on the bright side of cancer.
“There are many support groups in North Idaho,” she said. “We have a great medical community here too. I really was lucky to get the kind of cancer I got.”
Part of that support is the Relay for Life of Kootenai County. The Relay for Life of Kootenai County Survivors Reception is 6 p.m. Friday, July 21 at the Lake City Center in Coeur d’Alene. The Relay for Life activities will be held on Saturday, July 22, at McEuen Park.