I can’t remember a lot of what happened next or the time frames. This is due to my age at the time, I guess. What I do remember is that I went into hospital a month after my 13th birthday to have part of my thyroid taken out to be examined. I didn’t understand why at the time.
It wasn’t until I had to go back into hospital to have a full thyroidectomy that my mum and dad sat me down and told me I had cancer. I just remember feeling a little confused about how I could have got it. I wasn’t upset or scared -again, I think this was due to my age. I didn’t understand the seriousness of it. It was worse for my parents to deal with.
After my operation, which I had at Darlington Memorial Hospital, I would travel to Newcastle General Hospital for my scans and radioactive iodine treatment which I had a few times. This used to upset me, more for the fact of not being with my friends and hanging out with them. Being in isolation, I felt I was missing out on all the gossip!
Luckily they would write letters and give them to my parents to give to me so I could keep up to date which helped. I do remember taking a lot of time off school due to all the hospital visits and struggling through my GCSEs. I did manage to achieve a couple of grade Cs though :-).
After one of the scans, we found out that the cancer had gone into my lungs. I had a five day stay at Newcastle General undergoing radioactive iodine treatment. This cleared it. In 1992, at the age of 16, I was given the all clear. Ten years down the line after that first diagnosis and yearly check ups at the hospital another lump was found in my neck.
I was older this time and had all the emotions I didn’t feel when I was younger. I found it quite difficult to cope as by this time I had a daughter myself. I had the lump removed and thankfully it was benign.
I was asked to visit the genetic clinic in James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, to see if my cancer could be genetic and whether my children and grandchildren would be likely to inherit it. Luckily not. A lot more research has gone into this since then. My DNA was also been sent over to America to help with research. I felt quite famous!
Now, 25 years down the line I’m living in West Yorkshire. I’m married with two beautiful daughters, and granddaughters, still attending yearly appointments. Only now I go to Leeds General infirmary. It was here that my doctor put me in touch with Kate Farnell.
I couldn’t believe, after all these years, I was talking to someone who had gone through the same experiences as me. It is a great feeling to know that I’m not on my own any more. I can also look on the Butterfly website if I or my children have any questions about thyroid cancer and the treatment. I wish I had been in touch sooner.
Kate is truly an inspirational lady for setting up the Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust.