Teen defeats thyroid cancer with the help of Texas Children's Hospital

Saturday, May 28, 2016
Battling thyroid cancer
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Thyroid cancer is more common in teens than you may think.

HOUSTON -- It can be devastating for any parent to learn their child or teen has thyroid cancer. But it's more common than you would think, and curable without the need for chemotherapy. Tyler Zapata shared his story with us about his journey.

"I was singing and then all of a sunned my throat started hurting" Tyler said.

He was performing in a school musical in 2013 when he noticed a lump on his throat. His mother took him to the doctor and a biopsy was recommended. It became more serious from there.

Tyler said "they wanted to have a thyroidectomy and they wanted to take out the lump to see if it was cancerous or not."

About a month later, the results were in.

"They said that I had follicular carcinoma. I had thyroid cancer. I remember feeling like a pit in my stomach" Tyler told us.

He was only a freshman in high school when he learned about his diagnosis. His mom is deaf and had to learn about her son's results through sign language.

"I remember having to interpret for my mother that I had cancer. And she felt worse than I did at the time" Tyler said.

Pediatric Surgeon, Dr. Monica Lopez says it's not that uncommon for a teen to be diagnosed with this type of cancer.

"Thyroid cancer is one of the more frequently seen in the pediatric population out of all the potential cancers you could get" Dr Lopez explained.

As a precaution, Tyler had a surgery to remove the other half of his thyroid.

"In removing that, the thyroid hormone levels will be very low, non-existent really. So for that he will have to take a pill every day for the rest of his life to replace the thyroid hormone that he will need for usual function" Dr. Lopez said.

Three years later, Tyler's life has gotten back to normal, with the exception of daily medication.

"I take Levothyoxine which is a supplement for hypothyroidism which is what I have" Tyler told us.

He says he is grateful for the team that saved him, and has aspirations of getting into the medical field himself when he graduates.

"They took away my cancer and they made sure it stayed away for at least 3 years, and so I am forever in their debt and will always positive to be the best cardiologist that I told them I would be" Tyler said.