Sprinter stays positive after treatment for papillary thyroid cancer

Though he was redshirted with a foot injury in 2010 and diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in December of that year, collegiate sprinter Jeff Gudaitis has been recovering well and staying positive.

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, the 23-year-old University of Washington student and two-time participant in the NCAA Division 1 Track and Field Championship is getting stronger after undergoing surgery and radiation treatment for the disease.

Gudaitis had his first inkling that something was wrong last year, when excess fatigue and a swollen neck prompted a university doctor to order a needle aspiration biopsy, the newspaper stated.

The test revealed that the runner was suffering from papillary thyroid cancer, a relatively rare illness for a man in his early 20s.

Women are three times more likely than men to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Furthermore, young adults form a minority of those found to have thyroid carcinomas. Less than 18 percent of all cases of thyroid cancer are detected in Americans under the age of 35, the NCI estimates, and those that are are more likely to be virulent or aggressive.

As a precautionary measure, doctors gave Gudaitis a full thyroidectomy, according to GoHuskies.com, the official sports website of the University of Washington.

However, before the operation - within minutes of his initial diagnosis, in fact - the optimistic sprinter was looking beyond his disease to the coming year.

His roommate told the News Tribune that Gudaitis had an exceedingly positive outlook right from the start. "Literally, within 10 minutes, he was talking about getting back into track. He was already thinking about the future," said Conner Larned, a discus- and hammer-thrower.

Hurdler Falesha Ankton added that the sprinter consoled her when she found out he had cancer, noting that she was amazed it didn't happen the other way around.

Gudaitis is nearing the completion of his economics degree today, the newspaper noted, and he proudly displays his thyroidectomy scar, considering it an invitation to explain to others what the experience of having thyroid cancer is like.

The Columbia University Department of Surgery estimates that papillary thyroid carcinomas account for at least 70 percent of all cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S.

In all, nearly 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year, according to the NCI.

For his part, Gudaitis' year is looking up. GoHuskies.com reports that the cancer survivor was recently honored with the 2011 PAC-10 Sportsmanship Award.