My thyroid cancer started in late 2018.  There were no signs of any problems. I had an ultrasound for a different issue after which the technician highlighted a possible problem that should be further investigated. Two further ultrasounds and biopsies later, I was referred to the ENT department.  By this time a lump was visible although it wasn’t known whether it was benign or cancerous.

The ENT consultant and his staff were great. They gave me a pack of information, talked over the options, and agreed that I should have half my thyroid removed (hemithyroidectomy). This was done two weeks later. The medical staff explained about the procedure and the operation itself went without any issues. There was a little discomfort but this was treated with painkillers. I was able to eat and drink within a couple of hours and also to get up and go to the bathroom. I was a bit wobbly but ok. I was allowed home the next day after the doctors has examined me. I was a bit tired for a couple of days but otherwise fine; eating etc. without any problems. I had a check-up with my GP a week later and was driving after about 10 days. All was good, I thought.

Two weeks later I went to my GP as I had a sore throat at which point I was told all was not okay.  They had found that I had a 28mm papillary carcinoma which was multifocal and I would therefore need to have the other side of my thyroid removed as a precaution. I had the second operation two months later.  The procedures were much the same. This time round, the aftereffects were more severe but still treatable with normal painkillers. I was in hospital for three days under a higher degree of supervision and took a little longer to recover but once home I was soon able to eat etc, and was able to drive after about 10 days.

After having follow-ups with my ENT consultant, I was then passed over to the oncology department. They agreed that a course of radioiodine (RAI) treatment would be beneficial. I had this four months after the second operation. This was a strange experience but I found it helpful to be able to visit the department a couple of weeks beforehand to meet the staff who were overseeing the procedure.  This was really useful so if it is available I would advise anyone to take up the opportunity.

The RAI involved being isolated in a completely sterile room for three days with no visitors allowed and very limited contact with staff. Any clothing worn whilst in the room was destroyed after treatment.  I wore tracksuit trousers and T-shirts during the day and pajamas at night. The only thing I could take into the room other than clothes was my phone and this was wrapped in cling film. When the battery needed charging I passed it to a nurse who took it away. It was then re-wrapped and returned. It was a bit daunting to take the radioactive iodine tablet but I had no ill effects at all.  I had to keep drinking a lot and had a shower twice a day to get rid of the radiation.  After three days the levels had dropped sufficiently for me to go home. A week later I was cleared of all radiation.

I did experience some hoarseness and lost my voice but after a few weeks of working with a speech therapist that resolved.

By the end of 2019, I was medically pretty well okay, with annual checkups and an ultrasound to follow for five years. I do still have fatigue and understand this is not unusual following a thyroidectomy. It is frustrating having to pace myself. I have found the advice and articles on the BTF website very useful in trying to find help in dealing with the problem and am looking forward to connecting with others who may be experiencing similar.

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Thyroid cancer

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