After Eliana Baum’s teenage niece was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, every member of the family was advised to get screened. Now, Eliana reflects on the series of events that led to lifesaving care she received at Englewood Health.
It had been just over two months since Eliana Baum’s teenage niece was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Discovered during an ultrasound for an unrelated condition, her niece’s cancer diagnosis prompted a shift for the entire family.
Though Eliana’s family had a preexisting history of thyroid cancer—her mother was diagnosed in her late 20s—the onset of cancer in a younger member of the family meant that everyone’s risk for the disease had just increased.
These were the circumstances that found the 33-year-old schoolteacher in the office of Englewood Health endocrinologist Fadwa Sumrein, DO.
“I went in for an ultrasound and Dr. Sumrein found nodules on my thyroid. Within a few days, it was confirmed with a biopsy,” Eliana said. “I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer just two months after my niece.”
Eliana’s first thoughts upon hearing her diagnosis were of her five-year-old son and her infant twins.
“I was immediately thinking: will I need surgery, radiation, or chemo? By that time, there had been so much cancer in my family. I think I suffered from having too much information,” Eliana said.
After the fog of her initial diagnosis cleared, Eliana committed to “taking it one step at a time.”
“Dr. Sumrein called me before my initial appointment just to go over the results,” Eliana said. “She explained what my diagnosis meant and told me that we were going to take care of this together. She was very reassuring.”
Dr. Sumrein explained that the first step would be to surgically remove Eliana’s cancer, along with her thyroid. This meant that Eliana would be on hormone replacement therapy for the rest of her life—care that Dr. Sumrein would facilitate after surgery.
For the surgery itself, Eliana was referred to Englewood Health endocrine and general surgeon Ki Won Kim, MD.
“A strong family history of thyroid cancer is a known risk factor that’s been well established in the medical literature. Close relatives of children diagnosed with thyroid cancer may be at an increased risk for developing thyroid cancer themselves,” said Dr. Kim.
According to Dr. Kim, in circumstances such as this, it’s important to disclose the change in family history to your doctors, so they can advise you of the most appropriate screening guidelines going forward.
“Dr. Kim is extremely personable. We’re similar ages and both have young kids, so we were able to relate,” Eliana said. “He walked me through the process of surgery and what the incision would look like once it healed. He told me he would blend it into a wrinkle on my neck.”
Of the process of surgery and recovery, Eliana said it was surprisingly easy.
“I love Englewood Health,” Eliana said. “I’ve had both of my births there, so I knew I would be taken care of. Everyone in the waiting area was so kind, so on top of everything, and so communicative with my husband. I was put in a beautiful room and was well taken care of the entire time.”
Eliana was able to go home the day after surgery and was back with her third-grade class within two weeks. In that time, she had follow-up appointments with Drs. Kim and Sumrein, where she learned that, given how thorough the surgery was, she would not need any additional treatment such as radioactive iodine ablation or chemotherapy.
“Hearing that was a big deal for me. I broke down crying: happy tears.”
Today, Eliana has passed the one-year mark and is officially in remission.
“At my most recent checkup, Dr. Sumrein reassured me that this experience was behind me now; that it was a part of my history; and that I did not have cancer anymore,” Eliana said. “I needed to hear that, and I think that was the moment I was able to begin emotionally processing all of this.”
Of her niece, Eliana said that she is also in remission and back at high school, playing soccer and “doing everything a teenager should be doing.”
Eliana said if there’s any advice she can offer others based on her own experience, it’s to follow through on the screenings your doctors suggest based on your unique family history. It could prove lifesaving.
To learn more about thyroid cancer care at Englewood Health, visit: englewoodhealth.org/thyroid-cancer.