Nicole McEachern, diagnosed at 21

As a teenager, I suffered from migraines and had a weight issue, but I did not think it was too much cause for concern.

Then, when I was 15 years old, I fainted at work. It came on really quickly. One minute I was finishing my day, the next I was lying on the floor with people standing over me. I went to the hospital. They asked if I was pregnant, did drugs or had consumed alcohol. After answering “no” to all three, I was given an EKG. There was nothing unusual and I was told it was a fluke.

For the next six years after that, I had various issues with fainting. I fainted at a restaurant and went to the hospital. I was asked the same questions about pregnancy, drugs and alcohol. I gave the same answers and they did another EKG. Again, nothing unusual showed. Again, I was told it was a fluke.

A year later, I started having more dizzy spells, and felt like I was going to faint. I went to the doctor and they did some bloodwork. I was told that nothing unusual was showing, that I was hormonal and what I was feeling was most likely caused by anxiety.

Then I noticed a lump in the right side of my neck. I had it checked, and they believed it was probably a spider bite that had drained into a lymph node. I took an antibiotic and the lump was smaller by the follow-up appointment, so they said I was fine.

“There is no good cancer to get, but you can improve your outcome by detecting it early.”

I then noticed two gumball-sized lumps on the front of my neck. They didn’t seem to grow or get bigger; they were just there. I had my annual physical that summer and the doctor didn’t think anything of it and said that if they were still there in a couple of months they would check them.

I asked my mother to make an appointment for me, but that same week I fainted again and this time smashed my face on the floor. I went to the ER and again was asked if I was pregnant, did drugs or consumed alcohol.

I had bruises on my face from the fall and was given a neck and head CT scan to check for any damage from the fall. That is when they found the tumors on my thyroid and many enlarged lymph nodes. I was then booked for a biopsy and diagnosed within a week with adolescent thyroid cancer.

Women are constantly put into a category where you are told everything is because of your hormones or because you must be pregnant. Do not stop advocating for yourself if you think there is something wrong.

If you are a teen, continue to advocate for yourself or get your parents to advocate for you. Again, don’t brush something aside because they want to put you into a category—drugs, alcohol or teen angst. Trust yourself.

When I was diagnosed, I was told, “This is the cancer to get.” Honestly, I hate that statement. I am so lucky to be alive, but it’s not easy still maintaining a treatment plan many years later. There is no good cancer to get, but you can improve your outcome by detecting it early.


  • migraines
  • fainting
  • dizziness
  • lumps on neck