Hello there from Helen!
Almost seven years ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. To say that it was a shock is putting it mildly. Like most people I knew that I had a thyroid, I never really stopped to think about what it did for me and I certainly had never even heard of thyroid cancer!
However, one Autumn day whilst taking my make up off ( I love my makeup and my day isn’t complete without it), I noticed a lump on the right hand side of my neck. It was totally painless and I honestly thought that it was a swollen gland.
When I showed it to my husband he also thought that it was a swollen gland but as I’d had previous “run ins” with cancer I made an appointment with my GP immediately.
My GP was fantastic. He thought that it was more than likely a cyst on my thyroid. He explained that most of these were benign but he referred me to a consultant endocrinologist for further tests and diagnosis.
After examinations and a fine needle aspiration it was confirmed that I had papillary thyroid cancer – what a shocker!
I had surgery in December 2006 – a total thyroidectomy – followed by two sessions of RAI.
I had difficulties with my voice for a short while following surgery and even now if I talk for long periods my voice tires and results in a whisper. I’m sure that my family often see this as “every cloud has a silver lining” – ha ha!
I joined the Thyroid Cancer Support Group of Wales (TCSGW) in March 2007 as there were many questions that I needed to ask – the type of questions that only a fellow thyroid cancer patient could answer. The group were fantastic – such a warm welcome and exactly what I needed – people who had actually been through exactly what I was experiencing.
No question seemed too trivial – some of the things that I was mentioning brought immediate smiles to people’s faces and I realised that what I was experiencing was par for the course following surgery and treatment.
The kindness of the group really brought home to me how important the role of the patient support group is – it makes such a difference!
I also had contact with Kate and the fabulous “Butterfly” – our friendship has grown very strong over these years and it is one that I value tremendously.
I was teaching full time when I was diagnosed but took the opportunity of early retirement when it became evident that my voice would not benefit from long days of talking.
The pupils at Glyn Derw High School were tremendously supportive – by the end of the day I would be talking to them in a whisper and they would whisper back.
When asked why they were whispering the reply that I received was “Because you’re whispering Miss!”
A lot to be said for a quiet approach in a High School!
I have a wonderful family life. I am married to Brian who has been an absolute rock throughout all of my health challenges. I have a son who is a police inspector in charge of the dogs, divers and horses for South Wales Police. He is married and they live local to us. I have a daughter who is a local vet and to make life complete and really special I have three gorgeous grandchildren!
We also have two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels so we walk them at least twice a day – busy times!
I am now the chairperson of TCSGW and we work hard to support patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
We provide help to them and to their family members – the knock on effect of a cancer diagnosis is immense!
Thyroid cancer has given me lots of opportunities that I never dreamt of having.
I’ve met many wonderful and inspirational people throughout my cancer journey. Life is very busy and tiring (I can’t do the same as I used to but hey ho who can as they get older?) but overall it’s just great!
I am in regular contact with Kate and Butterfly and have benefitted greatly from her knowledge and expertise.
When I was diagnosed it seemed to me that it was the end of the world but with the kindness, skill and expertise of my fantastic medical team both at the University Hospital of Wales and the Velindre Cancer Centre, along with the love and support of my amazing family and friends, I now realise that far from being the end of the world it was the beginning of a new one!