The C Word

A few weeks back I had a really sore throat, I happened to be visiting my local GP about something completely unrelated and mentioned this. Turned out I had tonsillitis and was given a course of antibiotics – no biggy! At the time he was a bit concerned about how big my gland was in my neck and seemed rather unconvinced when I said how long it had been that big.

Back in 2010 I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis M.E. Those who knew me back then will probably remember the period of time that I was very unwell and at times unable to work or do much of anything that I usually did. I was diagnosed with M.E. following a period of having really sore throats that left me feeling exhausted, shaky and unable to think clearly; I also had this swollen gland in my neck.

Over time I learnt to live with my M.E. symptoms and made really good progress at over coming them to the point where now I don’t consider myself to have M.E., in fact the only symptom I often joke is the swollen gland in my neck that never went down. Well it turns out that perhaps I and the numerous medical professionals I’ve seen over the years should have been a bit more concerned…

So back to my GP (who is locum that I haven’t seen before). He’s not happy with the gland and asks me to come back in 2 weeks, he’s convinced that following the course of antibiotics,  it will go down. I knowing full well that it’s been there for over 7 years is slightly more sceptical about this! 2 weeks pass and I’m back at the GP’s, the gland hasn’t changed and he’s made me an emergency 2 week appointment for Ear, Nose and Throat. “Don’t worry about it being an emergency 2 week one, I really don’t think it’s anything nasty but I don’t want you to have to wait weeks to be seen”.

A week later and I’m up at the hospital seeing a lovely specialist at the Ear, Nose and Throat clinic. Joyful visit having a camera put down my throat through my nose – I can barely type it without gagging! After a thorough examination I was told that along with my swollen gland she’d found another lump and that I would need to go for an ultrasound and needle test; but again probably nothing to worry about, could be cysts, swollen saliva glands etc.

I got a phone call that afternoon asking me to go in the next day for a scan. Now I know how over stretched the NHS is at the moment, so I was really pleased that I was being seen so quickly, slightly perturbed that people were going a little over the top with the urgency of it all and experiencing  a slight creeping of dread coming over me that perhaps this was a bit more than a swollen saliva gland…

Having only ever had an ultrasound on my pregnant belly, it’s quite odd having one on your neck. The whole experience only got more surreal when the radiographer turned to me and said: “Oh yes, you have a few lumps there”. (Erm ok, panic rising). “It’s ok though, they’re to do with your Thyroid” (Ok cool, i’ll calm down then).  “And it really is the best sort of cancer you can get”! (What? WHAT?!?!) Me: So it’s definitely cancer?? Radiologists then shows me the characteristics of Thyroid Cancer on the screen and there it is, just like that. I have Thyroid Cancer, and away I go home.

The week between finding out and having my diagnosis confirmed has been some what of a roller coaster, from having to tell loved ones, to working out the implications with work and life in general, to dealing with it with humour, to needing to just curl up in a duvet and have an internal melt down. Thank you to everyone who has known through this period of time and been so supportive. 

Whilst I’m not sure that the Radiologist told me in the right way, he is right about Thyroid Cancer. I’ve been diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer which is the most common Thyroid Cancer. It’s a slow growing cancer and is most commonly found in younger people, especially women. As well as having cancer in my Thyroid it has spread to my lymph glands; again this is quite common with this type of cancer and the good news is that this type of cancer rarely spreads any further. This cancer is also very easy to deal with through surgery. At some point I will be having my Thyroid removed and my lymph nodes removed from my neck; if there is any cancer that they are unable to remove then I will need some follow up treatment, usually with radioactive iodine. The further good news is that once it’s gone and I’m cured, it doesn’t come back.

So whilst hearing the news that I’ve got cancer is scary as hell and the next weeks and months are going to be a struggle at times, ultimately the prognosis is good and insert lots of clichés here about how it could be so much worse. Let this reluctant journey begin.

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