Nick’s Story


My story begins in January 2005 when I was offered a job assignment in Paris. An an offer I found difficult to refuse. So, at the age of 48, married, with a daughter at university I moved to Paris in April 2005.

NickEverything started well, but stressful, new job, new country, language, finding accommodation etc then in August 2005 whilst back in the UK I had great difficulty in swallowing a small tablet.

After a very uncomfortable couple of hours my wife noticed a lump in my throat, and when I tried to swallow, it moved up and down. We decided to go to A&E in Durham.

After the usual questions and examinations, relaxing drugs were injected and three hours later the tablet finally went down and I could swallow properly again.

Following this, three weeks later a specialist carried out a fine needle biopsy which involved putting a needle directly into the lump and extracting fluid to support testing.

At this stage he could not tell if the lump was cancerous. The procedure was unpleasant, but I thought it has to be worth it if a correct diagnosis could be achieved.

The result of the biopsy was inconclusive and they needed to carry out another FNB this time using ultrasound as a guide.

The specialist did warn me that it was a hit and miss procedure, but what can you do? Other than follow their advice. So I waited for an appointment date.

While waiting for the next appointment, another complication occurred. I was experiencing pain in my right groin area and had difficulty walking.

Many x-rays and tests were carried out in Paris. The second FNB was done in England, then back to Paris where I had an MRI scan and CT scan, because the medics suspected something serious.

They produced a report in French and provided me with the x rays and discs and advised me to get back to the UK as soon as possible.

My routine annual appointment with a consultant endocrinologist at the RVI was due for my previous battles with testicular cancers.

I arranged to have the French report translated and booked myself on the next available flight back home.

On December 1st, I saw my endocrinologist about my previous issues then I discussed my new ones starting with the thyroid.

He explained that the biopsy results suggested that I had probably got papillary carcinoma of the thyroid and two lumps had been located.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being worse I was a 4; an operation was required and follow up treatment.

This was not a surprise, I half expected it, but I was not prepared for the bombshell that was to follow. I mentioned the issue I had with the pain in my groin, fever etc.

He admitted me as an emergency case that afternoon. He told me to forget about the thyroid cancer, my groin problem was probably a psoas muscle abscess and if not treated quickly could have more serious consequences than the thyroid cancer.

It was confirmed that I had a psoas muscle abscess, and the next six weeks were spent on the acute infections ward being treated for this. During this time a close friend of mine died suddenly.

At this point it seemed that I had reached the lowest point of my life. I was battling one serious illness, which I needed to overcome to get the other one sorted out.

Finally the infection was brought under control. After this long delay, new dates were set for the thyroid operation.

I was given a choice, either have the full gland removed or just one half which had the lumps in. I opted for a half removal on the basis that it might not be malignant.

The biopsy confirmed that I had a papillary carcinoma and I needed to have the remaining part removed. After the operation, my voice was hoarse, but otherwise OK.

I needed to wait at least four weeks before they would operate again to give me time for my body to recover.

After the final thyroidectomy in late February I needed calcium replacement, which made my scalp very flakey and I was put onto oral T4 thyroid replacement.

I was referred to the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at Newcastle General for my post operation treatment. This would involve swallowing a radio isotope capsule to kill off any remaining thyroid tissue that the operation had missed.

It would also involve going onto a low iodine diet for three weeks prior to the treatment and coming off T4.

In late March I started the diet, foods such as fish, foods artificially coloured red, and seaweed were off the menu and I had to cut down on dairy products.

Overall I did not find it difficult, but coming off T4 was. I felt drained, slow, lethargic and basically dead to the world. In order to have my treatment I was placed in an isolation room on my own with a television.

Later in the day the ceremony began. Two medical staff appeared. One of the staff had a secure container, which contained the radio isotope capsule.

She then asked me to open my right hand she then extracted the capsule with a test tube and transferred it into my hand. She did not come into contact with the capsule.

I swallowed the capsule and then they asked me to stand maybe a metre away. She then used a radiation meter to determine my radiation levels and left.

In my room there was a red line, which nobody could cross until 2½ days later when my radiation levels had come down to sufficient levels.

I occupied myself mainly watching the FA cup on a free TV and reading.

On Day 3, after the series of scans to my neck and chest and my radiation level had been checked, I was given T3, the drug I had been longing for (200 micrograms daily).

My energy levels and general well being improved considerably and life seemed so much better.

Various checks on my psoas muscle abscess were made up to October when I was finally discharged, then shortly afterwards I had my thyroid challenge study scan.

The purpose of the scan is to determine if any remaining tissue is present following the surgery and treatment and is usually carried out six months after the radio iodine treatment.

I was fortunate to have this done using Thyrogen which meant I did not have to stop my T4 again.

In early December I had an appointment with my onclogist, more or less a year to the day from my admission to hospital for the psoas muscle abscess treatment. I was pronounced clear!!!

Thankfully, I do not need further treatment and I can now look forward to six-monthly blood checks, when my thyroglobulin and thyroid hormone levels are checked.

In conclusion, never give up, despite the circumstances, be patient, assertive, but remember you are in excellent medical hands and the Butterfly Trust is there on hand to help you through this process.

They have been on hand throughout, either in person or on the end of a phone line.

The skill and support from the medical staff dealing with issues and the many cards, messages and daily visits from my wife, daughter, other members of my family, friends and colleagues was very uplifting and a source of great encouragement.

A great big thank you to you all!!!!

Nick Toes
May 2007