ThyCa History

  • Spring: Karen Ferguson, thyroid cancer survivor of Charlotte, North Carolina, began reaching out over the Internet and connecting with other thyroid cancer survivors.
  • October: Karen Ferguson of Charlotte, North Carolina, and a handful of other thyroid cancer survivors organized the first informal chat room for thyroid cancer survivors on the Internet.
  • November: Karen Ferguson negotiated with America Online to create the first formal mutual support group on the Internet. (The group is still meeting every Monday night, and has moved to a chat room on the Cancer Survivors Network. More information is on our web site under E-mail Support Groups).


  • December: Ric Blake, of Londonderry, New Hampshire, organized the first local support group for thyroid cancer survivors. It began meeting at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the second Saturday of each month.


  • January: Arturo Rolla, M.D., an endocrinologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts; Karen Ferguson of Charlotte, North Carolina; and Ric Blake of Londonderry, New Hampshire, organized the first thyroid cancer survivors' e-mail support group (listserv) on the Internet. This group and the America Online mutual support group (chat room) begun in 1995 became the foundation for current ThyCa programs around the world.
  • February: Ric Blake and a few of the subscribers to the ThyCa e-mail group began planning the first conference for thyroid cancer survivors.


  • September 18-20: ThyCa '98, the world's first conference for thyroid cancer survivors, took place in Burlington, Massachusetts, near Boston. At that meeting, planners began organizing a national steering committee to establish a not-for-profit association that would provide support services and serve as a primary source of information about thyroid cancer and outreach and education programs for survivors around the world.
  • October: The ThyCa Steering Committee was established. Original members included Ric Blake, NH, Gary Bloom, MD, Kathy Buetikofer, PA, Paige Drymalski, IL, Karen Ferguson, NC, Gail Gundling, AZ, Brian Hughes, NJ, Dr. Arturo Rolla, MA, Jerry Sachs, MD, Jan Scheuerman, FL, Risë Shamansky, NY, Marilyn Sherman, CA, Betty Solbjor, MA, Eric Vahibusch, MI, Marci Vanim, VA, Lisa Warner, NY and Mary Rose Weckerle, MI.
  • November: The ThyCa Steering Committee elected officers: Mary Rose Weckerle, Chair; Gary Bloom, Assistant Chair; Karen Ferguson, Recording Secretary; and Ric Blake, Corresponding Secretary.


  • January: The ThyCa Steering Committee formed the world's first thyroid cancer survivors' organization, now officially named ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association.
  • March 5: ThyCa Board elected officers for two year terms: Chair: Gary Bloom, Maryland; Vice Chair: Eric Valbusch, Michigan; Recording Secretary: Karen Ferguson, North Carolina; Corresponding Secretary: Ric Blake, New Hampshire; General Counsel: Kurt Alexander, Florida.
  • March 8: ThyCa announced two new local support groups. ThyCa Washington, DC, will meet in Silver Spring, Maryland, starting in April, with Gary Bloom as facilitator and organizer. ThyCa Louisville will meet in Louisville, Kentucky, starting in May, with Pamela P. as facilitator and organizer.
  • March 12: ThyCa's pro bono law firm files application for incorporation in its home state of New York.
  • March 24: ThyCa is officially incorporated!
  • Established Web site at, with Betty Solbjor as webmistress.
  • Established survivors' toll-free phone line.
  • Established e-mail groups for medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancer survivors and families.
  • September: StudyWeb awards Academic Excellence Award to ThyCa's Web site.
  • October 22-24: ThyCa '99, the second annual conference for thyroid cancer survivors, is held in Burlington, Massachusetts.
  • November 24: ThyCa received its written notification of tax exempt status under section 501 (c)(3) of the IRS code.


  • Established Medical Advisory Council.
  • Published free downloadable Low-Iodine Cookbook.
  • Established Person-to-Person Network.
  • Established pediatric e-mail support group.
  • Established Thyroid Cancer Awareness Week.
  • Initiated Membership Messenger Newsletter.
  • Held 3rd Annual ThyCa Conference in Chevy Chase, MD, near Washington, DC, attended by over 200.


  • Established e-mail support group for advanced thyroid cancer.
  • Held first free regional one-day workshop at Boston, MA.
  • Initiated ThyCa's Research Fund Campaign
  • Initiated free online newsletter, ThyCa JOURNEYS.
  • Published expanded 2nd Edition of the free Low-Iodine Cookbook
  • Held 4th Annual ThyCa Conference in Chevy Chase, MD, attended by over 300.


  • Established e-mail support groups for long-term thyroid cancer survivors and for caregivers.
  • Held two free one-day regional workshops, in Warwick, RI, and Fairfax/Merrifield, VA.
  • Published expanded 3rd edition of free Low-Iodine Cookbook.
  • Held 5th Annual ThyCa Conference in Los Angeles, California, attended by over 350.
  • Held 1st Dinner/Auction research fundraiser.


  • Awarded first Research Grant ever funded by thyroid cancer survivors and families, to researcher at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. The grantee was selected by an expert panel of the American Thyroid Association.
  • Held 3 free regional one-day workshops in DC Capital Area, Nashua, NH, and New York, NY.
  • Received more than 100,000 Web Site visits each month.
  • Expanded web site to more than 300 pages.
  • Increased e-mail support groups to more than 2,200 participants.
  • Published awareness flyer titled "Yes, It's Real.”
  • Published the 4th edition of the free downloadable Low-Iodine Cookbook.
  • Received special recognition from the American Thyroid Association at the ATA annual meeting.
  • Held 6th Annual ThyCa Conference with 2nd Dinner/Auction research fundraiser in Houston, Texas, attended by over 350.


  • Awarded 2nd Research Grant to researcher at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
  • Published Thyroid Cancer Awareness Brochure featuring Catherine Bell, co-star of the hit TV series JAG and thyroid cancer survivor.
  • Introduced Thyroid Cancer Awareness Ribbon Pin.
  • Held free Spring Workshops in Silver Spring, MD, and Worcestor, MA.
  • Increased e-mail support groups to more than 3,300 participants.
  • Expanded local support groups to 32 states.
  • Expanded web site to more than 500 pages.
  • Added a subweb with a web page for each local support groups, with Joel Amromin as Support Groups site webmaster.
  • Expanded Awareness Week to Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month.
  • Received more than 150,000 web site visits each month.
  • Held 7th Annual ThyCa Conference with 3rd Dinner/Auction research fundraiser in Chicago, Illinois, attended by over 400.


  • Awarded 3rd and 4th Research Grants, both for 2 years, to researchers at University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, and University Hospital, Duesseldorf, Germany.
  • Received more than 200,000 web site visits each month.
  • Increased e-mail support groups to more than 5,000 participants.
  • Expanded local support groups to 35 states.
  • Held 4 free regional one-day workshops attended by more than 300 from 23 states. They were held in Baltimore, MD, St Louis, MO, Ft Myers, FL and Vineland, NJ.
  • Introduced Thyroid Cancer Awareness Magnet and Awareness Wristband.
  • Represented ThyCa and spoke at FDA public meeting on therapeutic equivalence of levothroxine sodium products.
  • Exhibited ThyCa materials at more than 40 medical meetings and community events.
  • Developed Anaplasatic Thyroid Cancer web site (
  • Published the 5th Edition of the Low Iodine Cookbook
  • Held 8th Annual ThyCa Conference with 4th Dinner/Auction research fundraiser in Denver, Colorado, attended by over 400.


  • Awarded 5th and 6th research grants, both for 2 years, to researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, Maryland, and Cochin Institut, Paris, France.
  • Expanded e-mail support groups to more than 7,500 participants.
  • Introduced two new thyroid cancer awareness flyers "Find it Early" and "Know the Signs."
  • Held Spring Workshops in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and New England.
  • Expanded local support groups to include a new group in the Philippines.
  • Added materials in Spanish to the web site.
  • Developed Pediatric Thyroid Cancer web site (
  • Held 9th Annual ThyCa Conference with 4th Dinner/Auction Research Fundraiser in Orlando, Florida, attended by over 400.


  • Awarded 7th and 8th research grants, both for 2 years, to researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, and Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (visiting scientist from Medical University of Gdansk, Poland).
  • Expanded e-mail support groups to more than 8,500 participants.
  • Added support groups in more states and Costa Rica.
  • Participated in the Scientist-Survivor Program of the American Association of Cancer Research.
  • Published expanded 6th edition of free downloadable Low-Iodine Cookbook.
  • Published free Spanish-language Low-Iodine Cookbook.
  • Held five one-day Spring Workshops in Arizona, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, and Texas, as well as seminars in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and guest speakers at support group meetings.
  • Previewed the Medullary Thyroid Cancer Web Site.
  • Exhibited at more than 15 medical professional meetings and more than 30 cancer awareness events and health fairs.
  • Held 10th Annual ThyCa Conference with 5th Dinner/Auction Research Fundraiser in San Francisco, California, attended by nearly 500.