Relay for Life co-chair Jeff Vereecke battling rare form of thyroid cancer

Although thyroid cancer has a lower fatality rate than other tumors, there has been a 2.4-fold increase in its occurrence over the past 27 years. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that this form of cancer is more prevalent in women than men; however, men are still at risk.

For example, Relay for Life co-chair, Jeff Vereecke, has been suffering from complications of the disease since 2006 when he noticed a lump on his neck, The Daily Telegram reports. He went to his doctor, who diagnosed Vereecke with papillary and medullary thyroid cancer. Vereecke is one of the first documented cases of someone who has both types of cancer.

Soon after his diagnosis, Vereecke underwent surgery to remove his thyroid and surrounding lymph nodes. He then received radioactive iodine treatment, which involved taking a pill that destroys thyroid cells in the body. After taking the pills, Vereecke had to isolate himself from his wife and children for a few days due to his radioactivity.

Vereecke and his wife, Karen, have been coping with the disease by participating in Relay for Life, which raises funds for the National Cancer Society. Today, Vereecke is still battling complications related to cancer, as it has spread to his bones.

The CDC reports that both of these cancers may be hereditary, and family members of medullary cancer patients can benefit from getting tested for the gene.