GREENVILLE, N.C. — September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, and a Greenville woman is sharing her cancer survival story.
What You Need To Know
- September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month
- Hillary Liles found a cancerous lump in her neck following a weight loss procedure
- Dr. Christopher McGowan says early detection is key in fighting thyroid cancer
She may have never known about her lump if it weren’t for a completely separate medical procedure.
“It was definitely more of a physical challenge, being in the heat or being outside," Hillary Liles said.
At 250 pounds, life was quite difficult for Liles. "Bending over, crouching, moving around in general," Liles said.
But that was two years ago.
Today, Liles can work in her garden with ease and is down a staggering 125 pounds.
“Very rewarding, helps definitely with my stress levels to be able to do something I enjoy," Liles said.
In August 2020, Liles went to Dr. Christopher McGowan, a world renowned gastroenterologist.
His Cary office, True You Weight Loss, specializes in a procedure called endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, or ESG.
“Her procedure was about 45 minutes long and this is non-surgical. And because of that, the recovery is vastly different than a true bariatric surgery. She was back in action within a couple days," McGowan said.
In fact, she lost 19 pounds in the first week alone.
But you could argue her dramatic weight loss was trumped by a more signifcant health scare.
“I have a little bit of a scar there," Liles said.
Just weeks after her ESG procedure, Liles noticed a lump on her neck that she'd never felt before.
“I immediately texted Dr. McGowan and I said, 'Do you think this could be a result of the surgery, like a lymph node maybe?'" Liles said.
“She lost a lot of weight in her neck and found this nodule. We evaluated it, and it proved to be cancer and really by losing weight we were able to find this early and that's the key," McGowan said.
A biopsy came back negative, but Liles was proactive and got the lump removed anyway.
Turns out, it was cancerous after all.
“My surgeon said since it was cancerous, then we would need to remove the other side of my thyroid. Then, in February, I had the other side removed," Liles said.
Liles says it has been difficult living without a thyroid and she has to take daily medication.
But McGowan calls Liles' story simply amazing and credits her determination both in weight loss and fighting cancer.
Now, up and moving again at full speed, Liles has become a bit of an advocate for thyroid cancer awareness.
“The thyroid is shaped like a butterfly in the neck, so butterflies are pretty significant for thyroid awareness," Liles said.
She proudly wore a butterfly shirt during our interview. The colors are teal, purple and pink, which represent thyroid cancer awareness and a symbol of her own battle.
Again, McGowan says early detection is key in fighting thyroid cancer.
He recommends checking your neck for lumps by going to your primary care doctor or doing a self-check.