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Story published: 03-13-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Campbell continues to win in fight with thyroid cancer

By Lacy Hilliard

Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

Survivor Series 2013

Part I

The rapidly approaching American Cancer Society Relay for Life marks the beginning of the Survivor Series. Last year, The Tomahawk profiled several Johnson County residents that shared one heart wrenching commonality; they fought for their lives against perhaps the most dangerous modern-day foe. Cancer claims the lives of over 7.6 million people worldwide each year. Survivors like Sarah Campbell recognize each day as a miracle and are celebrated at the ‘Relay’ each year.

Young Sarah was enjoying the beginning of a major life chapter. On May 4, 2007, Sarah married the love of her life. She and her husband Jason began building their home in Mountain City shortly after, beginning construction in October. Between the construction of their home, Sarah’s job at the ETSU College of Medicine, and her full-time pursuit of a graduate degree, there was seemingly little time to spare for any of life’s inconveniences. But at a routine doctor’s appointment in November of 2007, just one month after breaking ground on the construction of their home, Sarah got some alarming news. The doctor detected some lumps around her thyroid, which inspired a scan of her neck. The scan confirmed the presence of the lumps and Sarah’s doctor told her that reexamination in three months would be necessary to determine whether or not any growth had occurred. Unfortunately, in February of 2007, a secondary scan confirmed significant growth.

Due to the growth of the nodules shown in the second scan, Sarah was sent to a pathologist for a needle biopsy. In reflection, Sarah says that it is this experience that would prove to be the most traumatic of the treatments she would undergo. The extremely painful biopsy was immediately taken for processing and Sarah had the results within seven minutes.

The pathologist entered Sarah’s exam room and as she passed by her, she muttered, “The biopsy showed malignancy. You have thyroid cancer.” As the pathologist took a seat perched above Sarah, she began hurriedly going over her options. However, after the phrase, “You have thyroid cancer,” was uttered, Sarah found that her capacity to listen to the dialogue that followed compromised. Fortunately, Sarah’s sister, Maggie Lewis, was present and able to support Sarah beginning at the very moment she was diagnosed and never waning throughout the ordeal.

Following her diagnosis, Sarah began a series of radioactive iodine treatments. Because these treatments attack the cancer using high levels of radiation, Sarah was forced to isolate herself during and after treatments. The isolation wore on Sarah and even though her family and friends provided an amazing network of support, Sarah sometimes felt as though she was alone and feared that she could contaminate her loved ones.

In 2010, Sarah underwent a full body scan. Thankfully, the scan revealed that Sarah is cancer-free. However, due to her battle, she will remain on the drug Synthroid and will undergo preventative scans for the rest of her life. On November 12, 2012, a routine scan showed abnormalities and a subsequent ultrasound revealed three new spots that had not been present at the previous appointment. Sarah’s doctors feared that the cancer had returned and sent her in for a needle biopsy on November 26. Though one might expect that Sarah was a total mess throughout this ordeal, she says that she was anything but. She prayed and felt that as a result of her prayers, God provided her with a “true peace” that carried her through this trying time. When they attempted to biopsy the newly discovered nodules, they couldn’t find anything.

Sarah Campbell knows that without her amazing network of support, she never would have made it through cancer. Her husband, Jason, was her rock throughout and though at times she tried to push him away, he knew she needed him and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Her stepson Ethan, mother and father Jane and Howard Winters, sister and brother-in-law Maggie and Jeff Lewis, and countless other family members and friends all rallied around Sarah and made her feel in even the darkest of times that she wasn’t alone.

To read the entire article, pick up this week's copy of The Tomahawk.