Patient Stories

 Judith's story

I was diagnosed with Papillary thyroid cancer in 2008. I had been to the doctors several times over the previous couple of years because I kept coughing , particularly when I was eating. Then one day I noticed a lump in my throat. I was seen by the ENT department and sent for an ultrasound and then a fine needle aspiration, which came back negative. I then went away to Australia for a month, thinking all was well. On my return, I felt that something was not right so had another appointment and was referred to a thyroid surgeon, who recommended that I had the lump removed in case it turned cancerous in the future. I had the operation and had no reason to believe there was a problem.

Imagine my surprise when, the day before my hospital follow up appointment, I had a phone call from my family doctor, asking how I was coping. I told him I was recovering well from the operation, but he said he meant the cancer diagnosis! To say I was shocked is an understatement!!! My daughter and I then went down to see him , but he knew nothing about thyroid cancer and suggested I look on the Internet. 

The following day, I had my hospital appointment and was then referred to another thyroid surgeon who dealt with thyroid cancer, so again there was a wait until I had a full picture of what lay ahead. I had my 2nd operation, to remove the other half of my thyroid along with some lymph nodes, on the day before my birthday. This was followed followed by 2 treatments with radioactive iodine, 3 months apart. Coming off my T3 beforehand meant I was feeling tired before these treatments and having to keep away from my grandchildren and pregnant daughter afterwards was not easy.

Whilst visiting my daughter in Wales, I went along to the thyroid cancer support group in Cardiff. It was great to meet others who had also experienced thyroid cancer and hear how they had helped others. I then spoke to my oncologist, Dr Matthew Beasley, about having a group based at Bristol. With his help and support and that of other staff, Thyroid Cancer Support West was set up, with an initial meeting in January 2015. The group has already grown, with a meeting in Taunton in July. People are contacting the group from a much wider area, so we hope to grow further in the future. 

I have to thank my surgeon for giving me such a neat scar and staff at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre for their care and successful treatment. Throughout all this I have had the support of my friends and lovely family- 4 daughters and their growing families, without whom I would have found it difficult to cope. I am having annual check ups , feeling well and looking forward to the future. Life seems to be busier than ever now !


           Kat's story

I was diagnosed with Papillary thyroid cancer in 2015 when I was 31 years old. I had a lump in my neck for about a year before I mentioned it when I was at the GP about a totally unrelated matter.This was about May and, after being packed off to the hospital for 3 appointments with consultants, 2 fine needle aspirations and 2 scans, it was suggested that they removed it to be on the safe side as they couldn't tell what it was.

Along I went to the hospital in the Autumn for this little lump to be removed, to be reassured by the surgeon that he would never see me again as he was always removing lumps from people and it was "never anything to be worried about" Needless to say I was somewhat worried when I woke up from this minor operation to see said surgeon standing over me stating he needed to make an appointment to see me the following week.

I think I will always remember that day I went back to hospital for the results. Unfortunately, the letter telling me to bring someone to the appointment with me arrived the day after this, so I traipsed into Exeter hospital alone and pretty sure there was bad news waiting for me.

I was quite reassured when I was told that it was indeed a tumour they had removed from my neck, that I had thyroid cancer, but it wasn't really anything to be worried about and would be dealt with by further surgery and maybe some radioactive iodine treatment. All seemed quite straightforward and something I was already planning on putting behind me as soon as possible.

As the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, I had to have both a neck dissection and the rest of my thyroid removed.I went down to surgery at 12 pm and my poor Dad was beside himself when I eventually appeared again at 9 pm.The scars were quite shocking at first, probably because of the rows of metal staples holding them together but, with time, they have faded and it's rare to notice people staring at them any more. I tell people I wrestle sharks for a living and there was once a mishap!

The radioactive iodine treatment followed in the February and was quite hassle free. I had another lot in September 2016. I didn't have to stay in hospital long and don't have children I needed to keep away from so, for me, this was just another hurdle to clamber over.

It's scary to hear you have cancer, but for me, it was about just taking one step at a time. Getting used to thyroid medication can be quite difficult and trying to get the doctors to listen to how you feel rather than what the blood tests say is a continued battle.That being said, since my diagnosis, surgery and treatment, the world has kept on turning in my own hectic, busy and fun way. I recently claimed Kilimanjaro to show myself I am as tough as the person I was before it all happened and that life does indeed go on.

              Bob's story

So I was 59 years old, partially retired, relatively fit with a healthy relaxed lifestyle, living in Bristol.

I swam at the local pool most mornings and from time to time got "swimmers' ear", resulting in a minor infection. One day my wife noticed that the swelling from the infection seemed more pronounced and suggested I visit my GP. My GP examined it and felt that it was probably nothing but best go to the lump clinic at the Bristol Dental School.

The consultant felt it was probably nothing but suggested a fine needle aspiration just to be sure. The diagnosis was "inconclusive" so I was sent for an ultrasound scan. The scan was inconclusive but the surgeon recommended a partial thyroidectomy to be sure. Apparently one can function perfectly well on half a thyroid!

4 weeks later I went to the BRI and had the operation and to my amazement the surgeon said he had detected a tiny cancer in the removed organ, and that it was recommended to remove the other half as a precaution.

A week later I had the rest of my thyroid removed by the same surgeon, who carefully operated through the original incursion to keep things tidy.

Shortly after this I had a brief and painless treatment with radioactive iodine at the Bristol Oncology Hospital.

Subsequently I was prescribed Thyroxine on a daily dose for the rest of my life. Regular check ups confirmed that the dosage was right and there was no further sign of any cancer.

I was very lucky. Early detection and a great job by the dedicated and talented NHS teams means that 5 years on I can continue a normal lifestyle with no other ill effects. I have met others who have had more problems on their journey and I am keen to show that sometimes it can be easy.

It did shake me at the time, and it has taught me to seize the day and not put off doing all the things we are offered in life.