For more than 25 years, Deborah Norville, 65, has been on screen in living rooms across America as the host of the popular show Inside Edition, among other shows. And while she’s spent much of her career informing the public, Norville never expected that someone would return the favor.
In 2000, an eagle-eyed viewer, who’d once had thyroid cancer, reached out to Norville’s publicist.
She mentioned that she noticed a lump on her neck and encouraged Norville to get it checked out. While she couldn’t really see the lump herself, Norville took the recommendation seriously and went to see an endocrinologist.
Norville had an ultrasound and a biopsy of her thyroid. The results were benign (negative), but her endocrinologist wanted to keep an eye on the multiple nodules on her thyroid. For nearly two decades, she continued to get checked out and the result kept coming back negative.
Until they didn’t …
A diagnosis of thyroid cancer
Almost 20 years after the observation from Norville’s astute fan, Norville’s test results came back positive for cancer.
“When those test results came back and indicated that the cells, this time, were no longer benign, it was worrisome, but it wasn’t terrifying because I knew we were on top of it,” Norville said. Because she had been diligent about testing her thyroid every year, she knew that they had caught the thyroid cancer early.
In April 2019, Norville had surgery to remove most of her thyroid. “Because it was so early on, there was no radiation, no chemo and no indication that it migrated anywhere else,” she said. “So that was really good news.”
2021, (Photo/Ben Watts, Inside Edition)
The scariest part of the surgery for her was when she was signing the pre-operative consent forms and one read that they couldn’t guarantee that her voice wouldn’t be impaired from the surgery.
“That was my biggest concern because I talk for a living,” Norville said. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness. I’ve got a nice career. I don’t want it to end now.’”
Luckily the surgery went well and that didn’t happen. Norville was off work for less than two weeks because the surgery was straightforward with no complications.
Post surgery, Norville has been taking a synthetic thyroid hormone to replace what her body used to make, and she will take it for the rest of her life. In addition to checking her bloodwork to be sure that the dosage is correct, Norville says that they routinely ask about her energy level, if she’s too hot or too cold, or experiencing any other symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
“I’ve never had problems. We got the dosage right from the beginning,” she said. “I’m on a very low dose of synthetic thyroid hormone. Knock wood — so far, so good.”
2021, (Photo/Ben Watts, Inside Edition)
When in doubt, check it out
As for the woman who told Norville to get that lump checked: Norville never met her. She just knows that she worked in television as well, and a viewer had contacted her to point out the lump on her neck. So when she noticed it on Norville, she did the same thing.
Norville’s grateful that the woman paid it forward and wants to do the same. “I’m telling people to get checked. If you think something’s wrong, check it out. I’m a really good example of ‘If you see something, say something,’” Norville said. “Enough people noticed something weird on my neck but, honestly, the night before the surgery, I still didn’t see it. When I go back and look at old photos, I see it now. But you don’t notice things about yourself.”
Norville said that being proactive led to the best outcome possible, and she encourages other women to do the same. Women, she says, need to get Pap smears, mammograms, colonoscopies, and any other tests they need to.
“Take care of yourself, people. Ask questions. Monitor the stuff that needs to be monitored. Don’t forget. Put it in your calendar to remind you to get checked. Most of us have phones with calendars that go for the next 30 years. So put the reminders into your calendar for the next 30 years.”
She also said it’s important for women to push back when necessary.
“As much as I think most of us were reared to have a little bit of reverence for the person in the white coat and defer to the doctor because they know best — they know a lot. But they don’t know everything. You know yourself better than anybody,” Norville said.
If you need to push back even when you’re being treated, Norville said to do so. “It’s OK to ask, ‘How come?’ If your doctor doesn’t take you seriously, you need to find a new doctor,” she said.
And one final piece of advice from Norville: “Stay close to your doctor. There are no stupid questions. Keep yourself informed. You get the medical care that you demand.”
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