Hello, I hope this finds you well and you’re enjoying the warmer weather.
I was 45 when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
I’d experienced symptoms for eight years and was initially told it was a simple swelling in the front of my neck. I struggled on for a long time and it had a big effect on my life. I felt constantly exhausted and put on weight. I had brain fog and a puffy face. I became sensitive to heat. I could tell the lump was getting bigger.
I was told that it was all in my head; that I should eat more vegetables and start running to lose weight. The lump continued to grow and it became difficult to swallow, breathe, sleep and eat properly.
Eventually, I was told I needed surgery to remove the lump. I was meant to have half of my thyroid removed, but had a feeling something wasn’t right. I asked for a second opinion and persuaded the consultant to remove all of it. Afterwards, a study of the tissues and cells led to a diagnosis of widespread papillary thyroid cancer with right vocal cord palsy.
I immediately became a member of a club I didn’t want to be in.
I sold my flat and closed my business of creating big, 3D mosaic sculptures because I couldn’t cope with the irritant of glass and grout dust on my throat. After radio iodine ablation treatment, I’ve been having specialist injections directly into my vocal cord while I’m awake. It’s horrible. The injections wear off, which means my speech can be patchy and quiet. Sometimes my voice goes completely. I’ve had more specialist surgery, but I’m still struggling.
It still takes a lot of effort to speak, which can make long conversations, and even socialising with friends exhausting. I tend to avoid noisy places and it’s knocked my confidence because I haven’t been able to go out as I used to.
Since that first heartfelt welcome at the Bournemouth cancer support centre, I’ve simply been Natalie and I feel heard and supported. I’m not just a statistic or a sticker on a blood test form. Wessex Cancer Support has been here for me through my tears and trauma as I find my way through cancer.
Covid was so isolating for me. I avoided going out and struggled with the side effects of my treatment. Now, I feel safe visiting the centre in person, but in those early days the sound therapy, meditation and deep peer-to-peer conversations over Zoom were a lifeline. I’ve met amazing people whose friendship has been invaluable, and I’ve been given a safe space to share my deepest feelings; to laugh, cry, let it all out and share supportive words of encouragement.
Counselling has unwrapped the tight knots of the trauma of my treatment. Complementary therapies have played a vital role in my recovery, because they work alongside my medical cancer treatment. I’ve had incredible Reiki sessions which have made me calmer, sleep better and aided my recovery after surgery. Acupuncture has eased nerve pain.
At 48, I’m on a different path to the one I’d imagined. But as Summer arrives again, I’ve reached the point in my journey where I can start looking to the future. I still need further treatments for my voice and swallowing, but I’ve found joy, friendships and support. I’m planning to retrain as an art therapist so I can help others.
Everyone who gives their time to be part of this incredible charity – from the caring befrienders and volunteers, to the trained therapists and dedicated admin team, create such a supportive community.
Thank you for reading my story, and for your support