Amy’s Story

Amy was 20 and in the middle of studying for her degree when she was diagnosed with papillary Thyroid Cancer.

She’s now fitter and healthier than ever.

AmyHi, I’m Amy! I am 25 years old and was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer when I was twenty. I was right in the middle of studying for a degree in biomedical science whilst working full time in a microbiology laboratory when I was diagnosed – finding out I had cancer was such a complete shock, I was young, fit, I enjoyed going out and to suddenly find out that I had cancer – my world was turned upside down.

I remember finding out that I had a lump in my neck – it was completely by chance – I went to see the consultant to ask a question about some work I was doing and as I went into her office she said “Amy, you’ve got a lump in your neck!” I was a bit taken aback but when she pointed it out to me, I did indeed have a lump about the size of a small golf ball on the right side of my neck.

I went through all the necessary checks, I had an ultrasound and a biopsy (which came back clear) and it was decided that I would have a right hemi-thyroidectomy in July 2008 after I had finished my third year university exams. I was a bit apprehensive but had convinced myself that it would all be ok.

I had my first operation on 1 July 2008, I had never had a general anaesthetic before and I remember being absolutely petrified. I was physically shaking when they wheeled me down to theatre. The operation went well and I recovered quickly and enjoyed having some time off work in the sunshine!

Two weeks later I went back to the hospital for my results and it was then that I was told that I had cancer. I will never forget that day, it was the most beautiful sunny day, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and I just remember walking out of the hospital to the car with my Mum and Dad and just wondering how everyone could be walking around normally when my world had just been so suddenly changed.

The hardest thing was telling people that I had cancer, ringing up my family and friends and telling them was really difficult, I had to let my Mum and Dad do it as I didn’t want to. I felt numb – I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I had a second operation on 23 July 2008 to remove the left side of my thyroid.

This was even harder than the first operation as I knew what was coming! I went through stages of not wanting the operation, then being angry about everything, to being really upset. Luckily everything went really well and I recovered quickly. I think I was better as I knew what to expect. The only thing that was a problem after my operation was that I lost my voice for six weeks.

I was a little scared it wasn’t going to come back . . . but thankfully it did!! I was started on T3 and calcium and I actually felt fine. I was able to go back to work and carry on with my life. I was then told that I would have to have radioactive iodine ablation therapy to ensure that any remaining remnant was destroyed.

I had started my final year at uni at this point and so I was trying to juggle working full time, going to university one day a week and having RAI treatment! A week after my 21st birthday I had my RAI, I was lucky enough to get onto the Thyrogen trial and I was allocated the arm in which I received both Thyrogen and the low dose of Iodine 131.

I remember having my RAI and being in isolation . . . that was the hardest bit, not being able to see my parents or anyone. Being in a little room all on your own gives you lots of time to think things through. I was angry and upset. I felt like it wasn’t fair that I was 21 and having to go through all of this, I just wanted to be a normal young person, not to have to deal with having cancer.

After my treatment I was switched to T4 and this was a difficult time too, it took a while for my levels to get high enough and I felt tired and lethargic for six weeks while this happened. I felt angry again that I was going to have to take Thyroxine for the rest of my life . . .

I didn’t want to have to take tablets every day, but as I began to feel better, I realised that it wasn’t really that big a deal and that if taking a tiny tablet every day was all I had to do to feel well then I was pretty lucky! When I found out that I had thyroid cancer, I immediately started searching on the internet for information.

It was my Mum who came across the Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust and she had called Kate for a chat. I can honestly say that Butterfly has been one of the most important factors in helping me beat cancer, the support that has been offered to both myself and my family has just been amazing!

Butterfly will be there with you every step of the way through all your treatment, there is always someone there to listen or who you can ask questions. Having a support network makes going through all your treatment so much easier, knowing that there are other people out there who have gone through exactly the same thing and come out the other side is so encouraging.

I graduated in 2009 with a first class degree and in June 2009 just after my exams I found out that all my treatment had been successful and I was given the all clear. It was time to start living my life again!! Following my diagnosis, I realised how important it is to follow your dreams and I decided that I wanted to apply to medical school to study to become a doctor, and hopefully help others that were in the same position as me.

I know what a difference a good doctor can make to a patient’s care. I started medical school in September 2010 and I am now over half way through my fourth year. I’ll be a doctor in less than 18 months time!! Since my diagnosis I have run the Great North Run twice and cycled coast to coast.

I am fitter and healthier than I have ever been and absolutely nothing about my health stops me from doing what I want! I am happier than I ever thought possible and living the life I always wanted . . . cancer really isn’t the end, it is just the beginning!

Amy Horton
January 2013