Surviving Well: Alina, Thyroid Cancer

It was during Alina Pugel’s second pregnancy in that she heard the words that no one wants to hear– “You have cancer.”

Alina had been having problems with her thyroid since 2008, when she went to see her primary care physician who found that her thyroid levels were off.

“My doctor sent me to see an endocrinologist, who diagnosed me with hyperthyroidism. She also diagnosed nodules. I remember her telling me about the possibility of cancer, but I didn’t really pay much attention. I was shocked I was going to have to be on medication for the rest of my life, but I found out later that lot of women had thyroid conditions.”

After the first diagnosis, Alina went in every six months to have her thyroid levels checked through ultrasounds. In 2011, when Alina was five months pregnant, the ultrasound results weren’t good.5AlinaP_018_SMALL

“I knew that something was wrong, based on my doctor’s reaction during the ultrasound,” Alina said. “Sure enough, one of the nodules was malignant. Small, but malignant. I felt betrayed by my body. How could I not have known? How could my body do this to me while I was growing another life?”

Alina’s doctor referred her to Dr. Kim Vanderveen, a thyroid surgeon at Rose.

“I really connected with Dr. Vanderveen and liked her demeanor and philosophy,” said Alina. “She was pregnant and had kids too, so I felt that she was very empathetic and understanding. She answered all of my questions and really worked with me to come up with the right treatment plan for me and the baby.”

Dr. Vanderveen recommended waiting to do surgery until after the baby was born, as thyroid cancer is generally slower growing. Eight weeks after baby William was born, Alina had a thyroidectomy. The surgery was successful, the cancer had not spread to any lymph nodes, and no further treatment was needed.

Today, Alina has to see her endocrinologist for regular checkups and is still on synthroid. Both of her beautiful children are doing great and are happy and healthy.

Alina says that even when you’re busy, it’s important to take care of yourself.

“Sometimes life can get in the way and we forget about the importance of taking care of ourselves,” she said. “But it’s so important. Even if you feel healthy, the doctors might find something that you can’t detect.”

To learn more about the Rose Thyroid & Parathyroid Center, visit or call 303-320-2578.


The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Alina is our survivor for April. 

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