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A Voice Saved

When Abby was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 15, she worried that surgery to remove her thyroid gland may destroy her greatest gift — her singing voice.

For Abby Eisenhauer, a thyroid cancer diagnosis at the age of 15 was a bit of a shock.

“We were at Abby’s annual physical when her doctor felt a lump in her neck,” said her mother, Mary Eisenhauer. “Thyroid nodules run in our family, so we just figured that that is what the lump was. After seeing an endocrinologist, however, we were told that it was in fact cancer.”

Her doctors said that Abby needed to have surgery to remove her entire thyroid gland — the standard treatment for thyroid cancer. Abby and her family sought care from Dr. Gregory Randolph, Director of Thyroid and Parathyroid Endocrine Surgery at Mass. Eye and Ear.

Abby and Mary Eisenhauer, of Exeter, New Hampshire

Protecting Nerves that Power the Vocal Cords in Surgery

For Abby, any impact that surgery may have on her singing voice was at the top of her list of concerns. A devoted singer who performs in recitals near her hometown of Exeter, New Hampshire, Abby was nervous about losing her ability to sing. Given the thyroid gland’s proximity to the nerves that power the vocal cords, surgery comes with a risk that these nerves could be damaged, impairing the voice.

“I knew Dr. Randolph was there for me from the start,” said Abby. “When I shared my concerns about my voice, he told me he would do everything that he could to preserve it.”

Dr. Randolph and his team in the operating room have much experience using specialized nerve-monitoring technology to keep an eye on nerve function during surgery. This technology helps to keep the nerves safe, and it helped to save Abby’s voice.

“Singing Will Always Be Part of My Life”

After a successful surgery and one round of radioactive iodine therapy, Abby is now cancer-free and back to her normal life, which includes school, a part-time job — and singing.

The moment she was given the green light to sing is one Abby will always remember.

“When I sang for the first time after surgery, it was a huge relief for me,” said Abby, who is now 16 and has returned to taking voice lessons as well as performing. “I have been able to go back to doing what I am supposed to do.”

“It was amazing to hear her sing again,” said Mary. “I even think she has a bigger range then before.”

Recently, Abby performed the song “Hallelujah” at an event held at her music school. The performance, embedded below, was her first since having surgery. She looks forward to many more in the future.

“Singing and music will always be a part of my life,” Abby said.

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