My gran spotted a lump on the side of my throat one Christmas time. Even as a nurse, I didn’t really think there was anything to worry about. When I mentioned the lump on my neck to my doctor, I was referred for an MRI. I was in shock when they told me it was thyroid cancer. I needed a full thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine treatment.
I was supported by Teenage Cancer Trust at The Christie. Caroline, the Youth Support Coordinator, built up a relationship and put me at ease really quickly. It takes a special person to do that. I wouldn’t have coped as well if I had been a bit older and had to be on an adult ward without her.
After the treatment, you look fit and healthy and people expect you to go back to normal. But the thyroid deals with energy levels, so it’s been a lot of learning about what the new normal for me is. Even if you’re on thyroxine tablets they’re never going do quite what your thyroid would do. I still get that extra bit tired.
When I got the all clear, I moved to France. I lasted about two months and came back home very depressed. That’s when I met Jonny again, who I’d known for years, as we had been to church together as children.
We started dating and Jonny was so supportive of me and he could sense when I was struggling. He learned to accept my good days and bad days. We joke that it’s nap roulette as I may be down for half an hour, or all afternoon.
I wanted to give something back to Teenage Cancer Trust, so we decided to do the London to Paris bike ride for them. I don’t think I realised how much of an impact the cancer had had on my body and the training was tough. But Jonny supported me through it and spurred me on during the ride.
We’d talked about getting married previously, but he surprised me when he pulled out a ring during the meal with the group after the ride. It was perfect. We’d got to know the group well over the few days we were cycling with them. They all toasted us when I said yes.
My advice to others in dealing with the after-effects of treatment is to give yourself a bit of patience and kindness. If you’re having a bad day, just set a couple of tasks that you know you need to get done. Have the morning to yourself and rest. Then you’ve got the afternoon to do the things you need to do. It’s about setting yourself realistic goals.
I think there’s a certain grieving process you go through, when you realise, “this is what my life used to look like, and this is it what it looks like now”. You might get two years down the line and still need some support. There’s nothing wrong with that.