top of page

Jeff Moreau survived Papillary Thyroid Cancer | Surgery & Radiation | Vermont Cancer Support Network

In this episode of the Cancer Interviews podcast, Jeff Moreau tells our host Bruce Morton how he survived Papillary Thyroid cancer with surgery to remove part of his thyroid, followed by taking a radiation pill for 5 years.  Jeff also shares how he went on to become the Executive Director of the Vermont Cancer Support Network, a volunteer non-profit.


Jeff Moreau’s cancer journey began when he discovered a nodule on the right side of his neck.  He said it was very attractive, but he walked around with it for three or months.  Even though his father had passed away from lung cancer, Jeff at first did not make a connection between the lump on his neck and any sort of cancer, but cosmetically he eventually came to the conclusion that he needed to get it checked out.  The doctor took one look and decided to run a biopsy.


The doctor said the nodule needed to be removed and that once it was, I would be good to go.  About a week later, the doctor called, and said Jeff would need to get part of his thyroid removed.


Jeff, of St. Albans, Vermont, said the procedure went really well.  However, the thyroid is shaped like a butterfly, and they removed what amounted to one wing.  The good news was, what they removed was non-cancerous; the bad news was, they saw a spot on the other side, and they wanted to schedule another surgery to remove it as well.  They apparently needed permission to do that, otherwise they would have gone ahead and removed both sides of the thyroid.  Unfortunately, that second procedure resulted in a diagnosis of papillary thyroid cancer.  The doctors were happy to report they were confident they had gotten everything and that it hadn’t spread.  However, post-treatment for the next five years, Jeff had to take a radiation tablet, as a means of making sure everything was caught. 


When administering the pill, somebody walks with what looks like a hazmat suit and the pill is in this metal container, but it is like taking an aspirin, it’s just one pill.  The tech is wearing a protective suit, but his wife and daughter weren’t, so for a few days after each pill, he had to be away from his family.


After coming in for regular checkups, once Jeff got to the five-year mark, he was told he was in remission and no longer had to take the radiation pills, but even that, he says, wasn’t all that difficult.  Jeff admits his cancer journey wasn’t as stressful as that of many others, but it still includes a fair amount of uncertainty.  Each time I would come in for a test, he would be concerned until hearing that the time went fine.  He said without question, the toughest part was the waiting.


As for Jeff’s wife and daughter, he said if they were stressed, they didn’t show it.  He is extremely grateful for their consistent support.


With diagnosis and treatment behind him, Jeff Moreau says his health is pretty close to what it was, pre-diagnosis.  His only problem has been a bit of weight gain, but otherwise, he says he is in fine shape.


Meanwhile, his involvement with cancer has not ended.  Jeff became the executive director of the Vermont Cancer Support Network, a small, volunteer-supported non-profit.  He says he has nothing to do with the clinical part of the operation, but does supervise its administrative side. 


Jeff says his experience on a cancer journey helps him in his capacity with VCSN because it gives him an enhanced perspective of the behavioral health pieces, mental health pieces and peer support pieces of patient outreach.  He says that outreach is not confined to those who visit the VCSN facilities, as VCSN has a website he says has been contacted by people all over the world.  Its address is


Additional Resources:


Support Group:


Vermont Cancer Support Network



 Bruce Morton: Greetings, this is the Cancer Interviews podcast, and I’m your host, Bruce Morton.  Our guest on this episode was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  He survived but decided that would not be the end of his cancer journey.  He leads an organization whose mission it is to help others as they face cancer.  He is Jeff Moreau of St. Albans, Vermont, and brings us an inspiring story dealing with past, present and future.  So, here he is, and Jeff, welcome to Cancer Interviews.


Jeff Moreau: Thanks so much, Bruce.


BM: Jeff, before we start, we like to learn about our guests and their lives outside of cancer.  If you would, Jeff, tell us about where you are from, what you do for work and what you do for fun.


JM: Sure.  I live in St. Albans, Vermont, born and raised there.  We are right on the Canadian border.  I have become a big hockey fan over the years, traveling up to Montreal to watch the Montreal Canadiens.  My daughter played all through high school, was the captain of her team.  I got into officiating, so that was a lot of fun.  When I got diagnosed with cancer, that was kind of sidelined, but today I run a variety of small, non-profit organizations, including the Vermont Cancer Support Network.


BM: And we’re going to talk about that in a few minutes, but first we want to talk about your cancer journey.  At what point did you detect something wasn’t quite right and how did that manifest itself?


JM: I had a nodule on the right side of my neck.  It didn’t look very attractive.  I walked around with that for three or four months.  My father had just passed away from a battle with lung cancer, so the thought of cancer to be honest wasn’t real strong in terms of that, but I knew I needed to cosmetically deal with it.  I went to a doctor, he took a look at it, they did some biopsies.  I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time, but he said I want to get that thing removed from my neck, so we’ll get it scheduled, we’ll take it off and you’ll be good to go.  He knew that’s all I needed to hear before I became very nervous.  He must have made a note to call me a week before.  He said while he’ll be in there, cleaning that up, we’ll take a look at your thyroid and maybe remove a little portion of it.  That was a bit of a surprise, but I said okay.  So, everything went really, really well, I felt fine.  In terms of cancer, I felt blessed.  This was not all that big a deal, but your thyroid is like a butterfly, and they removed one wing.  The good news was, it was non-cancerous; the bad news was, they saw a spot on the other side, and they wanted to schedule another surgery to go back in and take out the other side.  I guess they needed my permission to do that.  Otherwise, I assume they would have just done in while they were in there.


BM: At any time have you regretted waiting three or four months to be seen?


JM: Knock on wood, I was fortunate that it didn’t really make an impact on my outcome, but certainly that wasn’t the wisest decision.


BM: So, when they took out the other wing of your thyroid, did that include a diagnosis of cancer?


JM: Yes, unfortunately the other side that they saw did have a cancerous cell, but they were confident that they had gotten everything and that it was contained and hadn’t spread.  They did want me to take a radiation tablet, which was an interesting experience in itself, just to make sure that it caught everything, but no other treatment after that.  This was in 2007.  I passed the five-year mark and was being checked pretty regularly for that five-year period.  I guess once you get to that point, you are good to go, so I was fortunate there.  You take thyroid medication and try to manage as best you can and that has worked out pretty well.


BM: There is no such thing as a good day to learn you have been diagnosed, but what was it like for you to learn you were linked with the ‘C’ word?


JM: That’s a tough one.  As I think about it, I guess it wasn’t a natural thing to march on forward.  I tend to dwell on things and get tied in knots, but for some reason, I was like, this is okay and what’s next?  Fortunately, it wasn’t too involved as some potential diagnoses.


BM: You had mentioned taking these radiation tablets.  Was there any difficulty that accompanied that?


JM: No, but I have kind of a funny story.  For the surgery, they come in, they have a suit on, the pill is in this metal container, but it’s like taking an aspirin, it’s just one pill.  Of course, they are being careful for their own exposure, and for a few days I needed to be away from family, not to expose my wife and daughter to that radiation.  I mentioned my dad having passed away.  Well, my mother needed something to look forward to, so I brought her to Montreal again to see Disney On Ice.  When I get to the US border to come back home, after I rolled down the window and they immediately asked me if there was something radioactive in the car.  I was emitting at that point, and was a couple weeks after that, but I had a letter from my doctor and they let us on through,


BM: It sounds like this whole experience was not that difficult from a mental and emotional standpoint, or am I missing something?  Were there tough times, mentally and emotionally?


JM: Being months removed from having lost my dad, certainly the worse possible outcome was on the mind, but things moved along pretty well.  I think the hardest thing is the unknown.  It’s when they are doing testing, and it’s like they’re not sure about this or that, the moment they said I had cancer, for me, it was like, okay we have a roadmap.  We took the necessary steps and things went smoothly.  For me personally, the hardest part was any of the waiting.

BM: And how tough was this for your wife and daughter?


JM: I think they wanted to be strong for me, so I don’t know that they worried at the time the impact.  They were obviously pretty positive.  I have talked to my daughter in more recent years and weighed on her quite a bit, having lost her grandfather and so forth.  It ended up being her sophomore year of high school, so a lot going on there.  She and her mom were very supportive and strong.


BM: While we often hear of friends and family being supportive of someone who has been diagnosed, every once in a while, the shoe is on the other foot and the patient ends up providing support for family.  Was this ever the case for you?


JM: Not in my case. 


BM: You mentioned getting to the five-year mark, but was there a point at the one-year mark or the two-year mark in which you felt like things were taking a turn for the better?


JM: It ended up being rather anti-climatic.  At the five-year mark, the doctor said I didn’t need to see him anymore and you can just go to your primary care physician.  That’s when I learned I was good to go, so I wasn’t anticipating it.  A lot of this just fell into place, even the actual surgery and removal, it just happened.  Naturally when the doctor said that, it felt good, and just over time, I just felt I was incredibly lucky.  I went through this experience, but other than that one pill in the morning for my thyroid, I don’t really have any residuals, so I am grateful for that.


BM: Without that little butterfly in there that controls so many things, would you say that are pretty close to 100 percent?


JM: Yeah, I am close to 100 percent.  I like to blame my weight on that.  I have that issue, and I have to lose some weight.  Seriously, I feel great.


BM: I want to move on to your life where it involves the Vermont Cancer Support Network.  What inspired you to become involved with this?


JM: The Vermont Cancer Support Network is a small, volunteer-supported organization.  They were looking for an executive director to step in and support the board in their activities.  I was working for our local hospital, and I saw this opportunity.  I said to myself I think I can do both.  A colleague at the hospital was on the board as well.  She was very encouraging, saying I was just what they needed.  So, I interviewed, they hired me for the position.  Based on my experience with family and friends, I felt this was something I was really passionate about, and I thought I could really make a difference.  I am not much on clinical stuff, I am more on the administrative side of things.  I can’t draw someone’s blood, I am bit squeamish about stuff like that, but I can help point people in the right direction and connect them to resources. 


BM: That said, Jeff, you have had an involvement in health care.  Even if it is on the administrative side and not the clinical side, how much does that help you in your present capacity?


JM: Certainly, knowing that life is so much about relationships and being in the right place at the right time, so I think that was and is helpful; but I have a lot of experience kind of on the behavioral health side and the mental health side of health care and I really have a deep appreciation for peer support, so based on sort of a strong skill set on the administrative side and operational side of things, just kind of understanding the needs of people and how best to connect with them and support them.


BM: If you would, tell us about some of the services offered by the Vermont Cancer Support Network.


JM: The first and the most long-standing is Kindred Connections and that’s really the peer support program I just spoke of, and what we have found over time is, people are less likely to reach out for that one-on-one support.  So, the number of referrals that we were getting became disappointing.  I really felt like our impact was beginning to diminish.  We as a board really wrestled with that, and we engaged a bunch of University of Vermont students to follow another study that was done on our behalf, and they came with an idea similar to Cancer Interviews in terms of going online because that is what everybody does these days to get information.  One of the lessons learned for me in my journey is that I was encouraged to stay OFF line because you can get a lot of scary and inaccurate information; but if you have reputable organizations that are providing resources like this, it can be incredibly helpful   We have a small set of videos that we are hosting.  We still get Kindred Connection requests.  We are making those connections for peer support.  We have a gas card fund that I am incredibly proud of to help people get to the health care facilities they need to reach.  It has been in existence since 2017.  We give out cards of up to $100, depending upon how far people need to travel.  Finally, we have taken the website we have developed and we really want to be the hub for all the resources that are available throughout Vermont.  So, we have an extensive database of all the resources, not just in Vermont, but nationally. 


BM: As long as we are talking about things online, why don’t you share with us the Vermont Cancer Support Network web address.


JM: Yes, very simply it is, and you bring up a really good point, Bruce.  It is not unusual for us to be contacted by the rest of the country or the world.  Certainly, if people want to check out our resources that we make available, that’s the beauty of the Worldwide Web. 


BM: You had mentioned that VCSN was already around when you came on board.  I can only guess that what it was doing on Day One is far less than what it does at present, the flip side being say, five years from now, you will be doing more than what you are doing now.  Jeff, if you give us an idea of VCSN’s vision for the future, how might that look?


JM: One of the things that we have done historically that is a series of educational opportunities.  One that we did that was incredibly interesting is the use of medical marijuana to really kind of reduce some of the stigma around that and being able to provide the pros and cons and offer that as an option for individuals.  One of the things we have talked an awful lot about, and this has changed over the years, in terms of every state being required through their cancer centers, is to help people put together a cancer support plan.  Taking the experience that I had, documenting it, and having an understanding that the five-year mark is important, plus other things I might need to be thinking about down the road.  Being able to have that document and bring it home.  Because the cancer centers are not required to do this, was our asking ourselves if there is a program that we can put on that would give people a template and give them the information to put together their own plans.


BM: Jeff, we are going to bring things to a conclusion now.  We want you to imagine having an encounter with someone who has just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  You might have many things you want to say to that person, but if there is one part of that message that really stands out, something you would really want to drive home to that person, what would it be?


JM: It’s the cliché, but with anything medical like this, it’s the ‘one day at a time.’ Just do what you have got to do today.


BM: That can be kind of difficult, the person to whom you are speaking might say, but what would say is the best thing you can do to get through that one day?


JM: Focus on what you have to do that day to take care of yourself and your family and your loved ones.  What I mean by the one day piece is that it is so far to get down the road, and a mind is a crazy thing and you can’t be thinking about can eventually go wrong, it can really get away from you; so, I know today I have got an appointment, I have go to listen, I have got to be honest, I have got to go through it and then when I come home, I am going to shift gears and do my work and be with my family and I am going to get too caught up in dwelling on what that all means.


BM: Outstanding, Jeff.  We have been hearing from Jeff Moreau of St. Albans, Vermont, a thyroid cancer survivor and executive director of the Vermont Cancer Support Network.  Jeff, thanks so much for being with us.  It is a message that can through to people, not just in terms of your journey, but what the Vermont Cancer Support Network can offer in terms of getting through their cancer journey.  One more time, Jeff, thanks so much for being with us on Cancer Interviews.


JM: Thanks, Bruce, for the opportunity, thanks for reaching out and thank you for your friendship.


BM: Indeed.  And until next time, we want to remind you that if you or a loved one are on a cancer journey, you are not alone.  There are people like Jeff and organizations like the Vermont Cancer Support Network that are there with words and resources to help.  So, until next time, we’ll see you on down the road.


Support Group:


Vermont Cancer Support Network



bottom of page