I was 47, my youngest daughter was 14. In 2004 we bought wetsuits, all the gear and surfboards. I loved being in the water. However in winter, it could be difficult to keep the motivation going.
Around about January 2005, I started having earache and swollen glands in my neck. I went to see my GP there was a young locum, on duty. He could not find anything wrong.
In February, I still had earache and also a sore throat and swollen glands.
A course of antibiotics was given. After a while the sore throat seemed to ease but the swollen glands still there. Went to see GP again “Have you always had these swollen glands?” he asked.
I explained that they had been there for a while. He felt around the neck but could not feel any other growths or lumps.
Over the next few months, after having a gastroscopy/endoscopy ever few weeks (that was fun!) I went for CT, MRI scans and an ultrasound. In July at the Princess of Wales hospital in Bridgend I had a biopsy with the ultrasound and it seemed something was found.
All I wanted was to give it a name, so I knew what it was and could then deal with it and move on. I had to wait for the results. My immediate thought was cancer. Everyone said “Oh don’t worry, you will be ok”
A letter arrived in a few days and this time it was from a surgeon! I saw him at POW hospital in early August 2005.
He read the report, had a feel around the neck, and said he could not feel anything really. However after looking at the biopsy and ultrasound results he said he was 99% sure it was cancer. He said he would only know when he opened me up.
By now I was not scared about this. I had already accepted the fact. It was much harder for my wife and two daughters. Both the surgeon, and ourselves were going on holiday over the next couple of weeks so we agreed on a date of 17th August to come into hospital for the operation. So we went on holiday to the South of France, it was also our 25th wedding anniversary and the holiday was great, but I had other things on my mind.
We got home on the Sunday, I was in hospital on the Wednesday ready for my operation the following day. I met with the surgeon and anaesthetist. As I sat with a lovely tan, wearing my shorts and T-shirt, they did ask if I was in the right place. I did look too well to be here, I also felt pretty good.
The surgeon explained that they would soon know what type of cancer it was, and from there would have more information on the next steps. I went for some tests, and they insisted that I sat in a wheelchair. I wanted to walk, skip or run!!
I went in at 12.45 and they told my wife to phone at 2.00 o’clock as I should be out by then. However due to some complications I came out at 7.00 o’clock. I had an issue with the anaesthetic and some breathing problems.
As I was wheeled out my wife and daughters were coming in, obviously concerned and worried. I felt pretty sorry for myself and the porter asked if I wanted to skip and run now!
I couldn’t even lift myself up in bed.
Various Doctors came to see me and asked a number of questions. I had some strange pains in my legs and chest. I was taken for a scan, blood tests and x-rays. I was feeling pretty awful, and did not know what was happening.
When I came back to my ward, they said as I was so weak, they needed to give me a catheter. I will never be able to look that young female doctor in the same light again!
What a strange sensation. You just lie there, and your body urinates for you. The surgeon confirmed it was cancer and he had removed the thyroid completely along with the parathyroid, some lymph glands and fatty tissue.
I had also taken out years before a protection plan which paid out a lump sum if you had a “critical illness” he said “I’ll sign that form for you now!”
Thankfully, after a day of rest, I started to recover. I was still drugged up, with a drip, oxygen and tablets. Within a day or so, I was feeling much better, catheter and chest drain removed, I just wanted to get home. A couple of weeks later and my voice started to get weaker and weaker, also had some swallowing and breathing problems.
I was referred to a vocal coach to help with my voice and breathing. I need my speaking voice for my work, but was told I would not be able to sing again. My left vocal cord was not working properly.
A couple of months later I was imprisoned in the Radioactive Iodine Therapy room in Velindre Hospital. After a day I started digging a tunnel to escape, but was released before I could finish it. I think that is why they decided to put a garden there, as there was so much soil to hide.
There are too many people to thank really my wife, daughters and family and friends obviously.
The Thyroid Cancer Support Group Wales, all the nurses for their dedication, sense of humour and support. Various doctors, in my GP practice, the POW hospital all at Velindre. The most caring doctor and nicest person I have met Dr Laura Moss Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Velindre. Tonight through being introduced to the sing with us at Tenovus group I am joining the choir in Bridgend.
So keep your sense of humour, be positive live life to the fullest.