October, 2011
Harmony's visit to the Mayo clinic the first week of October had mixed results. First, there was some great news. Imaging showed that there were no remaining visible tumors. There is, however, a cancer indicator that suggests there is/are small amount(s) of medullary cancer cells somewhere. The doctors believe that more imaging should be done in three months to see if anything becomes visible. If something is found, surgery will immediately be scheduled. There is a small chance that the cancer indicator is just residual from the previously removed tumors. The tumors were removed 3 months prior. The cancer indicator is processed in most known patients in a few weeks time. But perhaps Harmony's body has a few non-standard processes going on. Life goes on expecting the best will happen.

November 03, 2011
The Fundraiser raffel Drawing is complete. A HUGE Thank You to all of our sponsors, donors, and participants!


Harmony Judson's Story
an ongoing struggle

On February 28 , Harmony's general doctor turned away from the computer screen. Her expression had changed. Her eyes were glassy as the word cancer was first declared. Things were about to get pretty scary. The following morning, blood tests and imaging started in earnest. On March 4, the results were in. Harmony was told she had medullary thyroid cancer. At the least, a tumor about the size of a walnut was in her thyroid. After more imaging, genetic testing, blood panels, the doctors did not see any tumors large enough to be visible on MRI images. Surgery was scheduled to remove the tumor, the entire thyroid, and all the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes in what the call the central compartment of the neck.

It turns out that medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is pretty rare. It accounts for only 5% of all thyroid cancer. Unlike the more common papillary cancer and follicular thyroid cancer, MTC does not respond to radioactive iodine, so the main treatment option is surgery. When MTC has spread throughout the body (becomes metastatic) there has been little to offer these unfortunate patients as there has been no effective chemotherapy drugs. It became apparent that it was important to move quickly to get any tumors removed before they have more time to spread outside the neck.

About 4 1/2 hours long, the surgery went as well as could be expected. They also removed and transplanted a parathyroid gland to Harmony's left forearm. Before and afterwards, Dr Scott Dull of Billings Clinic has showed compassion and expertise as a top performing surgeon.

A few days later, he confirmed the biopsy results of the removed tissues. In addition to the large tumor, 5 lymph nodes had MTC tumors in them. They had removed 18 lymph nodes in total. All 5 lymph nodes with tumors were from the left side of the thyroid. He felt it was possible that all the cancer cells were limited to the left side of her neck.

After doing lots of research, it became evident that Harmony would benefit from a larger medical organization. She needed to see doctors who had more experience with her specific form of cancer. After a few days at the MAYO clinic in Rochester, MN, it was clear that additional surgery would be required. This time, surgeons would remove lymph nodes and tissues on the entire left side of Harmony's neck. This lateral neck dissection was a more dangerous surgery because of the multitude of nerve bundles that come through this neck area.

About 4 1/4 hours long, the surgery went well. The doctor removed 37 lymph nodes. Tumors were found in 3 of them. Harmony will return to the MAYO Clinic this fall for more imaging and testing. Doctors will be looking for more spreading to other areas of the body. If and when they locate more, additional surgery will be scheduled.

Because Harmony and her husband Greg are both self employed, they paid for the best health insurance that they could afford. Unfortunately, it has has a higher deductible and is a little limited. Plus, they have to pay for travel to the MAYO in Minnesota to get the expertise that Harmony deserves. The out of pocket charges and non-covered items are more than they could ever pay. And unfortunately, because Harmony is self employed, she has no income when she is sick or gone. Likewise, Greg's startup business performs worse and more expensively when he is gone with Harmony for surgeries in Minnesota. Regretfully, next year might bring more of the same costs. They simply cannot afford the costs without some help.