Cancer

Thyroid cancer stories: Scott Burchett’s fight

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Striking out cancer

Diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 31, Scott Burchett turned to the team at Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center to help him fight back.

Vanguard Thyroid Cancer
A dad of three, Scott Burchett overcame thyroid cancer with the help of the team at Simmons Cancer Center.

During a routine physical, Scott Burchett’s doctor felt something in his patient’s neck. He suspected it was nothing, but he referred Mr. Burchett to an ear, nose, and throat specialist just to make sure. The specialist agreed it was probably nothing, but ordered a biopsy – again, just to be sure.

Mr. Burchett was diagnosed with thyroid cancer on May 25, 2012. 

“The first time you hear that, you’re scared and confused,” he says. “I didn’t even understand what the thyroid did.”

Mr. Burchett, Chief Operating Officer of the Frisco RoughRiders (a minor league affiliate of the Texas Rangers), was just 31. Two days later, he and his wife – his high school sweetheart, Caroline Burchett – learned they were having twins.

“It was a real roller-coaster time,” he says. 

“I’m just so grateful for what UT Southwestern and the doctors have done in my life and my family’s life.”

Scott Burchett

Trust and treatment

Mr. Burchett worked to process his diagnosis and focused on figuring out how to be as healthy as possible as quickly as possible. Unsure of what to do next, he reached out to a thyroid cancer support group for help. Members of the group recommended that he call UT Southwestern.

He’s glad he took their advice.

“UT Southwestern has done some great things for me and my family,” says Mr. Burchett, whose care team included endocrinologist Ildiko Lingvay, M.D., and endocrine surgeon Shelby Holt, M.D. “There’s so much uncertainty after you get a diagnosis and finding someone you trust feels really good.”

Educating himself was critical, too. His mom even bought him a 500-page book on the thyroid.

“I like to learn as much as I can and consider things from all angles,” he says. He went from knowing nothing about the thyroid to becoming an expert on this small organ in the neck that releases metabolism-controlling hormones.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 52,000 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year – and only about 14,200 of those in men. Fortunately, the disease has a high survival rate.

Mr. Burchett’s tumor was growing toward his vocal cords and causing discomfort when he spoke or sang. Treatment involved surgically removing his thyroid and about 90 lymph nodes in the area. Next, he took radioactive iodine, a treatment used to destroy any thyroid tissue not removed by surgery.

The medication came in a pill and required him to check his radiation levels.

“I had to be isolated from my family at that time to keep from exposing them” to the radiation, he says. “My parents were fantastic. My dad (Dave, a longtime TV producer for the Texas Rangers) picked me up and housed me during my period of radioactivity.” 

A second chapter of life

Today, Mr. Burchett is more than seven years into his journey, and the experience has changed him. “It changes your perspective on life to focus on what’s important and let go of what’s not,” he explains. “It set up a second chapter of my life.”

Mr. Burchett is the proud father of 6-year-old twins, Clara and Bennett, and 1-year-old Lucy. And in 2017, he was named Executive of the Year for Texas League. 

But life isn’t without challenges. “I’ve had to learn to live without a thyroid, which is rough,” he says. “You just don’t feel well at all. You have brain fog, you feel run down, you feel tired.” 

For people who have their thyroid removed, the body can’t make thyroid hormones. Without those hormones, a person develops signs and symptoms of underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), such as fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, and more. Taking a daily pill containing a synthetic hormone replacement can help minimize these symptoms.

“There’s still some stuff that’s there. It has to be monitored for the rest of my life,” he says, explaining that his cancer eventually came back, but he put his trust in Dr. Lingvay’s expert opinion and decided to closely monitor it rather than go through another round of treatment. “There’s a better-than-zero chance I may have to have another surgery at some point.”

And there’s the isolation that comes with cancer, too. “People don’t know how to talk to you about it,” he explains. The challenges aside, Mr. Burchett has remained focused on having a high quality of life once he felt confident in his ability to survive his cancer.

“I’m just so grateful for what UT Southwestern and the doctors have done in my life and my family’s life.”

Learn more about thyroid cancer.

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The Vanguard

Learn about the latest advances in cancer care, research, and technology inside this publication from UT Southwestern's Simmons Cancer Center. 

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