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Julie Martwick: Her Journey with Poorly Differentiated Thyroid Cancer

Julie Martwick: Her Journey with Poorly Differentiated Thyroid Cancer

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When Julie isn’t working at her job as an IT project manager in freight logistics, she spends almost all of her free time in her luscious garden on Bainbridge Island, Washington. The master gardener is most at home there - tending to her many hydrangea shrubs, planting new trees, and harvesting vegetables - all while looking forward to what will bloom next. These are the good days; however, there are days when she wishes she was just a master gardener, not a master gardener with Stage IV Poorly Differentiated Thyroid Cancer (PDTC).

Like many thyroid cancer patients, Julie’s journey to diagnosis took too long. She first went to the doctor when she experienced strange symptoms, such as feeling like her oxygen was cut off when she would raise her hands over her head, gaining weight, and feeling out of breath when walking uphill. The doctor didn’t seem too worried. After seven months went by, and January 1st rolled around, Julie decided to take matters into her own hands for the new year and immediately started a rigorous diet. She did lose weight, but a few months later she discovered a huge lump in her neck.

Julie had surgery to remove her thyroid in March 2020. Two weeks later, she was diagnosed with PDTC, the exact time as the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Julie quickly moved on from her local area doctors to a more experienced medical care team at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Since PDTC is such a rare disease, you have to go where the specialists are,” she emphasized.

Seven months after having her thyroid removed, biomarker testing showed a RET-positive fusion and Julie was put on selpercatinib (Retevmo). She saw immediate improvement in her scans. Retevmo was definitely shrinking the cancer that had metastasized to her lungs, neck, chest, and liver, but her liver could not tolerate the drug. Thankfully, she had the option to try the other FDA-approved RET inhibitor, pralsetinib (Gavreto), and since then her cancer remains stable.

Julie feels incredibly fortunate that when it came time to go on targeted therapy, there were two RET-specific drugs to try. Both drugs are generally well-tolerated, but often if a patient has problematic side effects on one, they can switch to the other. “I was so lucky to have Gavreto as an option after having issues with Retevmo. I am so very grateful that pharmaceutical companies like Blueprint Medicines exist. They are making a huge difference in the way we live with cancer today.”

Julie is very active in the Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association (ThyCa) and founded the Poorly Differentiated Thyroid Carcinoma Warriors Facebook Group so she can help others understand what is ahead, and, as she says, “onboard them to being a cancer patient.” Julie is very optimistic about the future. “Cancer research is going at warp speed. Best practices today are changing very fast. We have so much to look forward to!”

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