Rachel Hall, a resident of Leitchfield for the past 12 years, was just 24 years old when she was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer, but she says the experience has rejuvenated her belief in God and the power of prayer.
Hall was working at Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center in 2008 when a lump began to grow on her right thyroid.
She would later be diagnosed at the James Brown Cancer Center in Louisville with medullary thyroid cancer, a rare form of thyroid cancer that, to date, is untreatable, short of surgery to remove it.
“At the time, I was 24, young, and scared,” said Hall, who remembers breaking down in tears after returning to her car.
Hall credits her faith for helping her through this difficult time.
“At first I was down, but as I began to pray, I became at peace and calm,” she said. “God can take care of you. If you trust Him, He’ll take care of you.”
Hall travelled to University of Louisville Hospital for surgery to have half of her thyroid removed and underwent no other treatment for her condition.
Her first surgery included only a small incision, and Hall returned to work within a week.
Six years later in 2014, Hall was diagnosed with another occurrence of thyroid cancer, and, this time, the procedure to remove the cancer was much more strenuous.
Hall’s second surgery was performed at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and involved surgeons’ making an incision from ear-to-ear and removing 56 lymph nodes and the remainder of Hall’s thyroid.
Hall said a complication during the surgery—her right jugular artery was cut—as well as the rarity of her condition led her to continue her treatment at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.
MD Anderson sees only about 300 cases of medullary thyroid cancer per year, and so little is known about it that it cannot be treated with radiation or chemotherapy.
In February of 2015, Hall underwent an MRI scan at MD Anderson, and cancerous spots were discovered in her neck, lung, and liver, as well as on her spine.
Hall’s doctors told her that, at some point, her thyroid cancer would kill her because currently the only method of treating it is by surgically removing it, and, over time and multiple surgeries, this would cause her quality of life to deteriorate to the point that she could no longer live.
“That’s why I started praying,” Hall said. “I didn’t want that kind of death.”
Six months later, Hall received the answer to her prayers. She returned to MD Anderson for another scan, and doctors were unable to locate the spots in her lung and on her spine and determined that the spot in her liver was likely not cancer but rather hemangioma.
“The Bible says all things are possible, but when it actually happens to you, it’s mind blowing,” Hall said.
Doctors determined that the spot in her neck is still cancerous, but it is currently stable and not growing. Hall said that when the spot in her neck begins to grow, surgery will be performed to remove it.
“My faith has grown tremendously, and my trust in God, for sure,” said Hall. “You’re only going to leave this Earth when God’s ready for you to leave.”
While information is limited on medullary thyroid cancer, Hall said that every time she visits the MD Anderson Cancer Center, she donates a portion of her blood to the University of Texas for students to study.
Hall encourages people “to pay attention to their own health,” and check their necks for suspicious growths.
“And if you notice anything suspicious, get it checked out,” said Hall. “It doesn’t matter how old you are. I was 24.”
Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.