Thriving After Thyroid Cancer

In 2019, Brian Rideout was getting ready for his engagement photo shoot

As he was shaving, he noticed one side of his neck was quite a bit larger than the other. “The day before, it was entirely even on both sides,” he explains. “Something seemed to happen overnight to cause it.”

In a rush, he and his fiancé had their photos done and Brian went to an urgent care center the next day. The doctor and physician assistant on staff were unable to provide any answers. They suggested it could possibly be an STD and ordered blood tests.

“This felt off to me, so I sought out better advice,” Brian said. “I was between primary care doctors as I had just moved to the area.” Luckily, he had a new-patient visit with Dr. William Blair of Southcoast Physicians Group the following week, so he brought up his concerns.

Dr. Blair acted immediately, ordering ultrasounds and biopsies. The diagnosis came back quickly: papillary thyroid carcinoma, the most common type of thyroid cancer, which had spread to his lymph nodes. Brian was just 23 at the time.

He was referred to Dr. Keith Baldwin, a Southcoast Health surgeon specializing in thyroid surgery and surgical oncology. His mom and husband went to the consultation with him and were immediately at ease. “Everyone in the office was welcoming, caring and calming – they all seemed to genuinely care about their patients,” Brian recalls. “Dr. Baldwin came in with such a warm and calming energy – he made a scary situation much less scary. Hearing that he performs countless thyroid surgeries on an annual basis really made us feel comfortable and trust him.”

One month later, Dr. Baldwin performed a total thyroidectomy with a modified radical neck dissection to remove the 9 cm mass. Though his case was very complex, Brian recovered quickly, taking just two weeks off work. In a little over a month, he was back to normal.

After the surgery, Brian required Radioactive Iodine (RAI) therapy to eliminate any remaining thyroid cancer cells. Dr. Baldwin referred him to Dr. Amy Anderson, Medical Director and Chief of Endocrinology at Southcoast Physicians Group, to continue his care and he has been her patient ever since.

Four years after his initial surgery, all seemed well until Dr. Anderson found some abnormalities in Brian’s bloodwork. He underwent a full spectrum of tests, including a full-body iodine scan, CT and PET scans and a biopsy. The cancer had returned.

“Once again, I was back with Dr. Baldwin, recovering from a second surgery,” says Brian. “The incision was much smaller this time, and I healed quickly. Within 48 hours I was feeling good enough to drive. Now I am onto the next steps of another round of RAI treatments.”

Today, Brian says he’s feeling great. He takes medication to replace the thyroid hormone that his body is no longer producing. “I noticed a big improvement in my mood – probably a sign that the cancer was causing more of an issue with my hormones than I thought.”

Despite his ordeal, Brian considers himself lucky and says his experience opened his eyes. “Thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, and aside from having to take a little pill every morning, my life can go on as it was. This experience has taught me to live life to the fullest and never take a day for granted.”

Dr. Baldwin is happy to see Brian doing so well. “The responsibility of caring for someone Brian’s age – with advanced thyroid cancer – is not something we take lightly,” he says. “Because of the quality of Southcoast Health’s thyroid program, we are able to provide world-class care to the most complex patients, right here in our community – and I’m very proud of that.”

Brian says he is looking forward to Dr. Anderson confirming a clean bill of health, then adds with a smile, “As much as I love Dr. Baldwin and his team, I hope I never have to walk into that building again!”

To learn more about Southcoast Health cancer care, visit Oncology Cancer Care Southeastern MA | Southcoast Health.