Leah Whiteley, diagnosed at 26

My story really started on a plane coming back from Colorado. As we left the runway I got this sharp, excruciating pain on the lower right side of my back. It was a very long four hours back to Manhattan. I had passed my first kidney stone on that plane!

Once we landed, I went to get checked and my CT scan showed no further stones, thank God, one was enough for this then 26 year old. But I still didn’t feel like myself. About six months later I got a second kidney stone causing me to cancel my first date with my future husband. My doctor, at the time, couldn’t explain to me why at such a young age I was getting kidney stones. Was I not drinking enough water?

Around the same time, I started to feel something in my throat. Being the “hypochondriac type” that I am, I went right to my doctor and explained to her that I felt something in my throat. She did an exam and felt nothing but I knew something was wrong. I felt like my PCP (primary care physician) was dismissing my symptoms and wasn’t taking me seriously. I insisted on having some kind of imaging scan. Reluctantly she ordered an MRI which revealed that there was something in my throat. I proceeded to take a round of antibiotics but the lump didn’t go away.

“Because I knew ‘my normal,’ my wedding was a celebration on many fronts as I am now cancer free!”

Needless to say, I hired a new PCP who ran extensive blood work and found my parathyroid hormone and calcium were sky high. This explained the kidney stones but what the heck was a parathyroid?! I learned it’s a gland that controls the amount of calcium in your bones and blood. I had my parathyroid removed in March 2009; it was six months before my wedding. At first, my biggest concern was the scar from this “golf ball” size tumor in my throat until the pathology report came back and I learned the tumor was “Parathyroid Cancer.”

To say I was petrified is an understatement, but thanks to an AMAZING team in Boston, I had surgery, followed by radiation, and was married 30 days after my last treatment. Because I knew “my normal,” my wedding was a celebration on many fronts as I am now cancer free! (and kidney stone free!)


  • sharp back pain