A doctor discovered a small lump in the throat of The Dunham School swim coach Becca Myers during a routine July exam.
Myers eventually saw a specialist, but didn’t think too much about the lump until Monday, Aug. 1: the first day of fall practice for the Tigers.
After practice at the Crawfish Aquatics pool ended, Myers didn’t feel well. Within hours, the lump was much larger and was getting bigger as each hour passed.
“It was scary,” Myers said. “It (lump) got bigger, and I was in pain. To be honest with you, we didn’t know what to think.”
That’s when Myers and her husband, Dunham girls basketball coach Chad Myers, contacted family physician and friend, Dr. Richard Rathbone.
The next day, tests were run and the 27-year-old Myers was evaluated by a thyroid specialist. Three days after that, she had her thyroid removed. The growth, as it turned out, was cancerous.
Incredibly, Myers returned to the pool deck by the end of August. Though a radiation treatment involving iodine looms on the horizon, Myers is glad to be back and thankful for the support her family has received.
“Sometimes it takes something like this to make you realize how lucky you are,” she said. “As we went through this process, we felt so much support from the Dunham community. And from Crawfish.
“Dunham told Chad he could take off all the time he needed to be with me. There were a couple of times when he took the kids to school with him.
“The kids on my team stopped by the house with cards and food. Several groups at the school brought us food and they offered to help with our children. They were unbelievable. Crawfish stepped in and took over practices until I came back.”
Along with the blessings came an all-too-sobering reality check for Myers, who is in her sixth season as the Tigers swim coach. She taught for two years at the school and has been a nonfaculty coach since 3-year-old Charlie and sister Abby Ryan, 18 months, were born.
“Trust is an issue for me,” Chad Myers said. “You can always fall back on family, but ultimately it’s up to you and how you handle a situation like this one.
“It was such a blur that week, and I know we’re lucky to have Dr. Rathbone and the other people who guided us. I’m not sure we would have known what to do if we’d had to make all the decisions about doctors and surgery on our own.
“And it’s like I told Becca, I have a hard time taking care of myself. How would I have handled two small kids? That goes through your mind. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that.”
Myers has been told by doctors the thyroid cancer she had was the least dangerous of
the two most common forms. Once she completes the radiation treatment after the season, few complications are expected.
“There were choices that had to be made,” Becca Myers said. “One of them was whether or not to remove the half of the thyroid with the growth or all of it. I told them to take it all.
“After they did the pathology work, they told me it was good that we chose to have it all removed because there was a problem with both halves. They would have had to go back in and take the other half.”
Myers now has a daily regimen of medication designed to help her body handle the tasks the thyroid normally handles.
Another coach might have opted to take the fall season off. Not Myers.
“A few days after the surgery I came home and Becca was sitting up in bed,” Chad Myers said. “She was working on her swimming paperwork. There was no question she was coming back.”
The Tigers are now swimming toward the final part of the season that includes the Capital City Swim League Championships Nov. 5-6 and the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Swim Meet Nov. 16-20.
Meanwhile, Chad Myers is now practicing with the Dunham girls and working with Tiger boys as an assistant.
“This definitely puts things in perspective, Chad Myers said. “A bad practice or even a loss isn’t that significant.”