Location: Leeds, UK
Diagnosis: Papillary Thyroid Cancer (Lymph Node Metastasis)
I was 28 when I was told I had cancer.
Towards the end of 2017, I found a lump on my neck. It was fairly squishy and was about the size of a 50p coin. Not once did the possibility of it being cancer cross my mind. Turned out that it was. After lots of tests, scans and a few biopsies, the doctors told me I had two cancerous tumours on my thyroid and it had spread into the lymph nodes in my neck.
The best way to describe what came next was a total whirlwind.
I was booked in for surgery within 3 weeks of being diagnosed. I remember feeling so frightened, but my instinct was just reassuring me, "once you've had the surgery, it'll be out and you'll be fine".
Unfortunately, as my cancer had spread into my lymph nodes, I had to have a second treatment – a special form of radiotherapy called Radioactive Iodine Ablation (also referred to as RIA). Rather than having external beam radiotherapy, my treatment would involve swallowing a radioactive capsule that is designed to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue left from surgery, plus any cancerous cells that might still be there.
Just two months after surgery I was still very much feeling the effects of the recent trauma to my neck, but it was time to get locked up in an isolation room for my RIA treatment.
For me, both stints in hospital were very unpleasant. Surgery made me feel like death warmed up. I remember waking up and telling my mum I felt like I'd done 10 rounds with Tyson (and lost, clearly!). Isolation was, well... isolating. I was really sick on the first day and ended up sleeping for 15 hours straight. One day the nurses brought me food I wasn't allowed to eat, so I went practically the whole day without eating. Not ideal when you're sick and you can't leave your room!
So where am I now? It's been over a year since my surgery and radiotherapy and unfortunately my follow-up tests haven't shown the result I wanted. The protein they test for in thyroid cancer – Thyroglobulin – is still detectable in my blood, which means I may still have cancer. I'm hoping in the near future, after further tests, this will be gone. Despite it having been a tough old time, I consider myself very lucky to have a cancer that has such a high survival rate (around 95%).
Cancer has 100% changed my life.
The cons: I'll be on life-long medication and I know I'll never feel the same as I did before.
The pros: I get to survive this. I can live with with the adjustments I'll have to make to my life. I couldn't be more grateful for the second chance I've been given and it really has made me look at things in a different light. It's made me value relationships with people, and has encouraged me to remove any negativity from my life.
One piece of advice:
Be hopeful and have faith, even on the hardest days. You're about to embark on an unknown and scary journey, so make sure you surround yourself with trustworthy and reliable people – you'll want them more than ever.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Brave Collective. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information.