Michelle’s Story

It is with great sadness that we pass on the news that our ‘Beautiful Butterfly’, Michelle, lost her fight with this disease in June 2010.

She leaves behind a wonderful legacy on how important it is and what can be gained by remaining positive and living life to the full in spite of cancer. For fourteen wonderful years she did this.

Michelle, we love you, you are an inspiration to us all.

MichelleHi, my name is Michelle, I’m 30, a PR director, married, love dancing, drinking rose wine, I’d like to own a book shop, and by the way I’ve got thyroid cancer.

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma. Since that diagnosis my life has travelled two paths, pretty much simultaneously.

I’ve graduated university, built a career, been married (twice), enjoyed far too many drunken nights, spent too much money on shoes, suffered some serious crimes against fashion, and at the same time underwent five major surgeries for cancer.

So amongst the cheap wine and high heels of my 20’s, I handled the operations, the frozen fingers of calcium deficiency, developed ‘Cushings Disease’ a complication of my cancer which sounds innocuous enough – isn’t.

I put on two stone, lost it just as fast, developed temporary diabetes, and watched my face expand to something that looked like the man in the moon. ‘The Buffalo Hump’ really topped it off – it didn’t last thank goodness!

I lost my hair, grew it back, tried various experimental drugs, spent several days carrying bottles of wee in my handbag for collection (why was that not the day my handbag was stolen?).

I had both adrenal glands removed (didn’t even know what they were until they had to come out), became a regular in the MRI room, had CAT scans, bone scans and something called a PET scan – which involved a trip to London and more shoes!

I received a drug so radioactive it arrived in something that looked like it was developed for the NASA space programme.

I’ve met GPs, doctors, nurses, a phlebotomist(!), radiographers, someone who insisted on shoving a camera into my lungs while telling me to relax, consultants, physicians and a steady stream of students with pencils and cold hands.

I’m 30 and have spent my adult years with these people somewhere in my life.

Sometimes cancer is in the background, sometimes in the foreground, but whether it’s my first thought in the morning or just a gentle reminder when I look in the mirror, it’s always there.

However, I decided a while back, after the news that my cancer had spread – they say ‘metastasised’ I think that sounds like something that’s gone off in the fridge – that I would not allow this cancer to define me. There’s a lot more about me than that.

I seized the opportunity to change and make my life about what I wanted. Cancer made me selfish I suppose, but it also made me focused and stronger.

Yes, the road has been tough at times, and lying in a hospital bed looking like Frankenstein’s wife while nurses tug drain tubes was not perhaps, my most glamorous look, but I kept one image in my head.

Sometimes it was hard to find; it’s an image of me. My hair is bright, my smile is brighter, and I’m in my back garden looking healthy and well.

Because that’s me. Life is not about counting how many months or years or decades we have in front of us. Like the rest of the world, I have no idea. It’s about how we live them.

I don’t believe anything is set in stone for us, in the same way that I don’t believe in tarot cards or fortune tellers. I believe in me and the difference I can make.

You see, my definition of health is this:
Am I laughing more than crying?
Do I smile every day?
Can I dance, get chatted up in the pub, roller skate with my husband’s daughter, walk down a catwalk in a red corset (thanks Kate), run with the dog and do I feel alive?

The answer to all of that is yes.

So this is me. I’m the bright, vibrant young woman you see in this photograph. I am not glowing on an x-ray, in some anonymous consulting room.

I feel well, I believe I’m well, therefore I am well.

I have Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma, but I also have an amazing life and I intend to live it. All.
That’s my story.

Michelle Rowntree
May 2007