Undeterred even After 15 years
Fifteen Years, a touch shy of half of my entire life, I have been living with Papillary Carcinoma of the Thyroid. Or, in its most basic form, Thyroid Cancer. I would much prefer it was called Thyroiditis but hey ho, what’s in a name any ways. Actually, when it comes to the word Cancer, quite a lot. I was 20, green from too many nights in Student Union at Wonga or Pounded (classy bird me) but also because I didn’t know what was ahead. I was fairly confident in my google analysis * that shit was about to get real.
I was referred to A&E by a Uni Doctor who said I was being a hypochondriac and there was in fact nothing causing the referred pain in my arm. My then boyfriend dutifully came with me (thank you) to have an X-ray done, in the presumption that I could have a fracture of some sort from over doing it in the gym.
The SHO that saw me that day, saved my life. As new to his profession as I was to hospital departments, he thought outside the box. He examined me, and after a chat asked me if it could be anything to do with my thyroid problem. With biology never being my strong point, I laughed and muttered something to the tune of “I don’t think I have a thyroid”. In my feeble defence, I thought it was something you got when you started menopause, despite this reasoning having zero scientific substance behind it.
X-rays began, my collar bone and chest, in the inference the arm pain was referred. Within 2 weeks, despite the arm pain still bothering me, I was to become a statistic, a number on a very, very big spreadsheet. A would be happy-go-lucky Aston University Student with an awesome family, friends, boyfriend (not Facebook official mind – it didn’t exist in those years the dinosaurs practically roamed the earth) and dream job potential on the horizon. And then, within half an hour, I wasn’t any more. I was a cancer patient.
Thyroid Cancer Patient 101
My first operation was pretty immediate, but began and ended with no removal of the disease. It was too advanced for my first surgeon to be confident to tackle. He personally accompanied me to meet a Man-Who-Can (they even have those in the medical field!) on a Saturday morning in Birmingham, passing over the reigns to the dude that is the real hero in this story. Professor John Carmel Watkinson, or as he is now affectionately known JW.
His manner was tongue in cheek, to the point and informed me in the nicest possible way – “he would see what he could do”. Beyond that, there were no guarantees. My Family and I quite literally placed my life in his hands and with that I signed my life away for what would be the first of many operations to rid my body of this evil beast.
The one thing cancer never took from me, was my stubbornness. My determination to never let it win. Which is testament to the support network I have around me, who remind me of this resolve on the days it starts to falter. I did all things I shouldn’t do – I ran a half marathon, I went snow boarding and turned into a Giant Bruised Peach, I travelled, I went on a boozie holiday with the lads and 2 girlfriends. I climbed a mountain (literally as well as figuratively) I got engaged, I got married and the sprinkles on my knickerbocker life – I had 3 beautiful babies who I am honoured to call my own.
If you would have approached me 14 years ago and told me any of the above was remotely possible, I wouldn’t have believed you. I went into self destruct mode a touch. Out a lot, even when I shouldn’t, drank a lot, even when I really shouldn’t. I lost some serious chapters in that time, because I would drink until it didn’t hurt any more. Not physical pain, more emotional pain. I was as the old saying goes, drowning my sorrows. Which doesn’t work.
It took some harsh words from my parents for me to pull my socks up, well actually I needed to find them first, and get myself together to handle the annoying thing known as The Real World, even if that included Thyroid Cancer.
Pep talk worked, and I met a new boyfriend, who became a fiancé, then The Hubs and Team Twiglet swiftly followed. Not bad for a 20 year old given weeks to live. I wasn’t privy to the seriousness of my health for a long while, I think that level of protection has aided me so very much. Annoyingly it did mean that I have been to Australia for a day trip, but then that’s another story.
Thyroid Cancer has become who I am, but it doesn’t define me. It doesn’t, contrary to popular belief, make me live each day to the full. I appreciate it should, but the same shit goes down when the kids melt, the dryer packs up and then an error code comes on the dishwasher. Those kinda days aren’t good by anyones standards. And if they’ve never happened to you, I need your secret because believe me when I say
With another op date looming, Im quietly going about today – hubs doesn’t realise the significance this day holds for me. Firstly its one of my absolutely Besties birthdays (Happy Birthday Aunty Lyds, still sorry I ruined your 20th), Its my Gramps anniversary and whilst his pain and suffering needed to end, its oh so quiet without his happy little songs filling the room. And finally it is my cancerversary. Time really flies when you’re having fun/kids/life/cancer…..
*If you ever find yourself awaiting medical results of any kind – DO NOT GOOGLE – its is hands down the worst thing I did, and from that day to this, I have never done again. Find genuine and useful resources through Macmillan or Butterfly. Feel free to reach out to me too, if it is of any help firstname.lastname@example.org