Support Patient stories Billy Wright - thyroid cancer When I noticed a lump in my neck, I ignored it for more than 12 months. I had suffered from swollen glands and sore throats as a child and thought the swelling was down to this. At the time my symptoms appeared I was really busy. I had been cast into the spotlight after competing in Masterchef and was setting up my business with fellow finalist Jack Layer. I think my reluctance to seek medical help was probably due to a typical ‘British stiff upper lip’ approach to my health. I think this attitude is quite common in men. A year after the lump first appeared, I then developed a persistent cough. It was only then that I went for a checkup. Doctors originally thought I may have pneumonia but an ultrasound scan revealed I had two cancerous tumours in his neck. I received my diagnosis of thyroid cancer with a mixture of emotions. Firstly, it was one of relief as I had been through five weeks of testing for Lymphoma, which is much harder to treat. Next came the realisation I had to deal with a cancer I knew absolutely nothing about. I then had my thyroid removed during a lengthy operation at New Victoria Hospital in Kingston. This was followed up by radioactive iodine therapy (RAI ablation) at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Surrey. Due to the radioactivity this treatment takes place in an isolated room to prevent the radioactivity adversely affecting others with a healthy thyroid. I found this period of physical isolation one of the most challenging aspects of his treatment. The room had a stable door, so people could visit for a short amount of time, but I wasn’t able to really go near anyone for days. It was pretty intense. During this time I found my family and business partner, Jack, a great source of support. My mum had previously undergone treatment for bowel cancer and I was able to talk to her about my concerns and treatment. My dad and brother were very cool throughout too. Some friends did find it difficult to know how to react to the diagnosis. They didn’t really know how to take it. During the thyroidectomy (thyroid removal), a nerve near my voice box was damaged. This resulted in my voice becoming low and squeaky for about a month afterwards. After a few sessions of voice therapy, my voice thankfully returned to normal. I have been taking levothyroxine, a synthetic version of thyroxine, ever since.I have experienced some feelings of grogginess and lethargy but regular tweaks to my medication have largely kept these symptoms at bay. My experience of thyroid cancer has encouraged me to share my story with others in a similar position. My message to others is to stay positive and get active as soon as you can. I just thought to myself ‘the operation has gone well and I need to try and soon as my body would allow me to.’My only regret is that I did not get my lump checked earlier. I would urge people to check their neck regularly and seek medical advice if you discover any unusual lumps. Support and information on thyroid cancer are available here. Many patients also find our network of volunteer telephone contacts and local support groups a valuable resource.