by Judith Wilson
My name is Judith Wilson. I was born in 1957 and reside in Warwick, Rhode Island. Pre-thymoma, I was a healthy, active person enjoying life. I had raised my two children as a single mother, owned my own graphics business for over 25 years, enjoyed rowing on a women’s sweeps team, swam, traveled, and spent time with family and friends. In the winter of 2009 I developed upper respiratory symptoms that
didn’t respond to antibiotics. My PCP sent me for a lung x-ray, which, after a biopsy, showed a large growth. It was first thought to be lymphoma, but was then determined to be a thymoma. I got several opinions from thoracic surgeons. Dr. Mathisen from MGH was very experienced and competent, and I felt very comfortable in my decision to have him perform my operation. On March 17, I had a thymectomy. I recovered quickly and learned that my tumor was encapsulated, stage 1, B-1 90%, B-2 10%. A few weeks later I was having a hard time breathing. The diagnosis was myasthenia gravis, an auto immune disease common with thymoma. Luckily, I responded well to treatment.
CT scans were done every three months, and we were all surprised when new lesions appeared less
than two years later. The thymoma had metastasized into my pleural lining and was now stage 4. In July 2011 Dr. Mathisen operated on me again. I consulted with Dr. Fidias, a thoracic oncologist at MGH, and since there were no signs of any existing cancer, he decided not to start chemo at that time. Once again I
recovered quickly and enjoyed a good quality of life. I continued with scans every three months.
However, a few months later two very small nodules appeared. Not knowing if it was scar tissue
or a return of thymoma, the doctors kept a close eye on it. The tumors increased slowly in size, and Dr. Fidias felt we could get a biopsy on one of them. Unfortunately, once again -- thymoma. Dr. Mathisen and Dr. Fidias decided to treat me very aggressively. While the two tumors were still very tiny, Dr. Mathisen operated again in October 2012 to remove the cancerous nodules. He also removed as much of the pleural lining as possible and a small part of my lung. These were sent to pathology and came back with no signs of cancer. So, back to the scans every three months.
Life has certainly changed for my family and me. I am learning to live in the moment and enjoy each day, trying not to think too far into the future. At times it is very hard. Like everyone, I want to live and experience a quality life. I want to be at my kids’ weddings, meet my future grandchildren, and travel to places I have never seen.
Thymoma is a rare, poorly understood cancer that receives little funding. That’s why I am thankful to be under the care of the wonderful doctors and staff at MGH. I am also thankful to Michelle Cadorette and her family for starting the Thymoma Fund at MGH and making the first Thymoma Tissue Bank in the world possible. Who knows what the future may hold? Working together to raise money for research we can
help find new treatments, a possible cure, and hope for the future.