In November 1995 at the age of 26 I was diagnosed with Medullary Thyroid Cancer( one of the rarest thyroid cancers). I had discovered a lump in the front of my neck 4 years previously, but it had been misdiagnosed as a 'cyst'. I was married with a daughter who was nearly 2 and I was working as a Registered Nurse on surgical wards.
I was immediately referred to Guys Hospital London under a leading Cancer specialist in that Cancer. After numerous scans and tests I had major neck and chest surgery to remove a large tumour, this was then followed up by 6 weeks of radiotherapy. I lost my speech and swallow due to a paralysed vocal cord and radiotherapy burns, which also casued me to lose 3 stone. I was aware that the cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes and that there was no 'cure' but that there were treatments available. It took almost a year but I learnt how to speak and swallow again and returned to part time nursing. By 1997 I was pregnant again and had a boy in December of that year.
I was kept a close eye on and had regular scans and investigations as well as numerous radioactive treatments, however in 2000 I discovered a lump in my right breast. I had a lumpectomy and 4 weeks of radiotherapy to that breast. The lump was the same type of cancer as the original one. Again I picked myself up and returned to work and family life. In 2008 I found out the cancer had spread from my breast into my right underarm and I had surgery to clear all my nodes, giving me lymphedema (permenant swelling) of my right arm.
I knew the cancer was spreading and that it was slow growing (I was orginally told I would have around 10 years). I was aware that I had another lump in a tricky position between my trachea (wind pipe) and oesophagus and behind my chest bone. In 2012 the surgeon was insistent that we needed to remove this lump as it was growing and going to cause a blockage of my airway and my food intake, as well as possibly putting pressure on my spinal cord. As they started the surgery a main artery to my right arm was cut (because scaring from previous raditherapy complicated surgery) The surgery then became an emergency procedure to save my arm. it took 10 hrs and open chest surgery,15 units of blood and 2 cardiac arrests. I spent two weeks in intensive care and 2 months in Hospital during which time I had two more open chest opperations which took a year of healing and rehabilitation after which I returned to part time nursing again.
In June 2016 my breathing was worsening and a CT scan confirmed that the cancer was in my lungs and there was only one option, to try Chemo tablets with very nasty side effects to try and prolong my life. I had nothing to lose, so started taking them. I am managing to tolerate the side effects but had to make the heart breaking decision to give up work as a Registered Nurse, as I am too weak. I am now considered terminal and I also have bone metastases in my upper spine, so every day is a bonus. I am under the care of Pilgrim Hospice in Ashford, Kent as an outpatient. I have access to a Doctor for pain managment, alternative therapies, counselling , art therapy and gerneral support. I find the service invaluable, I couldn't get through my week without them. My best friend Joanne Weaver has been there for me throughout my cancer journey and has seen the hospices valuable work first hand. I am so grateful for her ideas to raise money for the Hospice.