Myia Avoids Thyroid Surgery with RFA Treatment and Restores Hormone Balance & Energy.
[My nodule] started to restrict my life, and I realized that the battle about thyroid issues is so much bigger than we realize.
Myia, 34, was diagnosed with a benign thyroid (non-cancerous) nodule 12 years ago at the age of 22 and was prescribed active surveillance. Her nodule grew and was very visible, restricting some movements which caused her discomfort while swallowing. At age 25, she was also diagnosed with Lyme Disease, which exacerbated her thyroid issues, and her overall health slowly declined. She developed Marcel’s disease due to Lyme disease and certain auto-immune conditions ensued, making it especially difficult to take needed medications, which prolonged her recovery time from her hypersensitivity. “It made me allergic to everything,” Myia stated. She also suffered from Hashimoto’s disease that later manifested into hypothyroidism, which she takes regular thyroid medication for. Even though her thyroid wasn’t working properly, she didn’t want to lose part of her thyroid to get rid of the very obvious growth in her neck.
I waited for a very long time for an alternative method. I really didn’t want to lose my thyroid.
Myia advocated for her health in an extraordinary way. “It took me years to find an alternative to surgery.” Was it luck that she waited until the last moment and found a solution? No doubt about it. Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) has only been available in the U.S. for four years, but only in very select centers. It was 1.5 years ago that Dr. Goldfarb and just a handful of others started offering the procedure on the west coast. “I went to many places, and I had 5 different doctors who wanted to take [my thyroid] out.” With all her health issues concerning her thyroid, she adamantly believed her thyroid was imperative to keep, and “…literally waited to the last possible moment.”
If I can advise anybody for RFA, always choose that over surgery, never go the surgical route.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) for benign thyroid nodules became available in the United States in 2018. Dr. Melanie Goldfarb, a professor of surgery who specializes in thyroid tumors and disorders, tirelessly and relentlessly advocated for this novel treatment be brought to Saint John’s Health Center to treat her patients with benign thyroid nodules. In fact, many of her patients waited for extensive periods for this method to become available. Dr. Goldfarb is also the program director for the Endocrine Center of Excellence for Thyroid Tumors and Disorders at Saint John’s Cancer Institute.
Why now? This method of treatment has been available in Asia and Europe for over 15 years and is proven to decrease or completely alleviate obstructive symptoms from benign thyroid nodules, according to Melanie Goldfarb, MD. Thyroid nodules are very common. 60-70% of post-menopausal females will have nodules, and probably 30% of men. Not all are symptomatic, but they can be.
Common symptoms of an enlarged benign thyroid nodule
Myia’s symptoms included:
- Enlarged bulge on her throat
- Severe amounts of pain
- Inability to move properly, especially while sleeping
- Inability to swallow
- Occasionally a severe inability to breathe
Hear Myia Describe Her RFA Procedure and Thyroid Recovery
Myia and Dr. Melanie Goldfarb recount Myia’s treatment and outcome in the rose garden at Saint John’s Health Center.
Post RFA Treatment
I didn’t realize how much of a difference I already felt in ways I didn’t know were going to happen.
After Myia had RFA treatment in the spring of 2022, all her symptoms began to fade. “About right after the swelling went down, my symptoms immediately shifted.” She was able to sleep again, her lymphatic system was balanced, she was able to eat and think better, and was able to put on weight! What impact did this have on her life? “My energy levels were significantly better!”
3 months after her treatment, Myia went for her first follow-up, and her thyroid nodule had shrunk by 53 percent!
Dr. Goldfarb saved the day. She’s the loveliest. It’s her bedside manner, as they say.
How did having Lyme disease affect Myia and her thyroid condition?
Q: How has this disease impacted and exacerbated symptoms for your thyroid health, and when were you diagnosed?
A: I was sick from 8 years old with concurrent infections, gut issues, low immunity, and nervous system imbalance. But it didn’t fully manifest until I was 25. At 25, I fell, started having seizures, lost hair, my weight dropped to 82 lbs., couldn’t sleep or eat, had severe joint pain, couldn’t remember words well, and started to stutter. I was exhausted to the point I couldn’t get out of bed; I couldn’t work and lost my whole life and my whole body; my organs started shutting down and I was wheelchair-bound. Lyme and co-infections killed my thyroid, and a goiter began growing. I got worse and worse and still no diagnosis. No one could understand what was happening. It was two years before I received a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease, mold disease, and multiple co-infections. And it would be ten years before I saw remission.
Q: What are some challenges of living with this disease?
A: Lyme has left me with a slew of imbalances that I am still repairing. I think I mostly need to manage gastroparesis, mast cell activation syndrome, and hypothyroidism- all triggered by Lyme. I maintain a self-care and detox regime and I am mindful of my low immunity. It takes me longer to recover from anything, exercise and stamina are hard, my memory isn’t the same, and my energy is weak; flare-ups happen often.
Q: How well-known is Lyme Disease?
A: We are in a Lyme epidemic though many are unaware. Pregnant mothers can pass Lyme to a baby in utero. Initially, doctors in the USA wouldn’t test me for Lyme, they stated I grew up in London, so I wouldn’t have Lyme. Only to find out later, that I have the European Lyme bacteria. Ticks can be missed on the body; we need to be educated on tick checks and understand the antibiotic availability if a tick is found. A simple round of doxy can prevent chronic Lyme. At present, there is no cure. We need to look at each person and treatment differently; we need to incorporate epigenetics as part of their treatment.
Q: What should someone look out for (signs, symptoms, who is at risk), and specifically what were your symptoms?
A: Lyme disease is not new, it has been around for over 5,000 years and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites 300,000 people per year in the U.S. alone become stricken with Lyme, although many argue that is woefully under-diagnosed. In 1977 three Connecticut communities reported an epidemic of strange sudden arthritis that began to take down many patients. Many scientists considered the epidemic to be virus-based. Several years later in 1982, Dr. Willy Burgdorfer discovered there was a spirochete bacterium in the tick, which was named after him — Borrelia burgdorferi. Cases of Lyme disease have been reported in all 50 states and every continent —besides Antarctica. Identifying Lyme disease is not easy for a number of reasons. Most laboratory tests covered by insurance and known by your local doctor are unreliable and every year, the number of infectious diseases carried by ticks grows significantly. Also, common signs of Lyme disease don’t always present for many years and symptoms can vary widely from patient to patient. It is not uncommon for those suffering from Lyme disease to spend years being incorrectly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, psychiatric disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune diseases: including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis among others.
Q:Do you have advice for others who might have or struggle with Lyme Disease?
A: Test correctly: Elisa test is good; the western blot is not reliable unfortunately. Find a Lyme literate doctor, and advocate for your own health, no one is in your body but you. Lyme is so much more than physical, it’s heavy on the mental, spiritual and emotional. Give yourself permission to rest and heal. Heal any emotional trauma, this is big for your nervous system and helps you heal. Mindfulness helps also. Change your diet, no dairy, gluten, soy, or sugar, focus on detox, and go slow.
You’ll put your body at risk if you take out your thyroid. I’m so lucky to still have my thyroid.
If you or a loved one think they have signs or symptoms of a benign thyroid nodule, please visit an endocrinologist, or call the Center of Excellence for Endocrine Tumors and Disorders at Saint John’s Health Center to make an appointment with Dr. Goldfarb: 310-829-8751
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Thyroid cancer has gone from the being #2 leading cause of cancer in young adults, ages 15-39, to being the #1 cancer. Learn more about signs and symptoms.