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After

So here I am, six and a half years later, getting on with life.

For a few years following the operation I would have almost weekly tingly pains in my neck and shoulder area where the nerve cells were trying to reconnect but they felt like they were touching the inside of my skin, making me want to itch them but couldn't.  Luckily this has almost stopped and I suppose the nerves that couldn't reconnect gave up trying.

I have had to go to the hospital annually for check ups to make sure the thyroid cells haven't reproduced, and so far they haven't and to be honest as long as I keep taking my medication I should have no more problems.  This type of cancer does have a high success rate because it is so treatable.

The way I see it is, I was ill, had the operation, got better, had the radio-active iodine treatment, went to Australia and ignored all my feelings about it. 

At the time I only concentrated on recovery and getting abroad.  I never dealt with the psychological implications,I wouldn't allow myself to.  Once I got back from traveling and my life gained some structure I was left to deal with the emotions I had built behind a very large brick wall, but now it was time to deal with it all and let it go.

It hasn't been easy, having to come to terms with this dreadful disease.  I did require some counseling as I started having day-mares.  I was terrified that someone close to me would be in an accident and die.  I would also have nightmares where I was told I had cancer again.  I feel I was very lucky to to have survived, but I am scared that if the next time I am told those words, that it may no be so curable.

I could deal with having cancer, but accepting the scar took a long time.  I will never escape the stares or people asking me how I got it such as a bus driver in Brisbane, but I have learnt to deal with it.  The nods to other 'thyroid scar' patients I pass in the street or in my case, see on a flight to New York, indicating a level of understanding that the other has gone through.  I hated the fact that when I get married I would be marked by this and would not have the perfect neck line picture.  But now, this is me, it is a part of me and something that reminds me everyday how lucky I am to be alive and how I know how important it is to not waste life.  Some people never get the opportunity to feel that.  The possiblity of my own death became real, we live as though we are immortal, but being reminded of your own mortality is quite a scary thing to face up to.

Below are some photos for the two years following the operation showing how well I healed.

 
                                                                      14/07/1999 - 2 months after the operation                          22/05/00 - A year after surgery, the scar is still quite visible
 
 
                                                                       06/05/2001 - 2 years after surgery.  The scar has faded a lot in that time.  It is possible to see that tissue was also
                                                                       removed from around the collarbone area, causing the dip in the skin.

It was hard coming to terms with all that had happened to me, to suddenly be made aware that my life could be taken from me at any time was very hard to deal with.  I didn't start living life to the full by doing adrenaline activities such as jumping out of planes and I didn't protect myself in cotton wool.  It did however, make me appreciate the little things and make sure I do things that make me happy.   I am not one for hazardous sports and never have, but I make sure I never let fear get in the way of me doing something.

At the beginning I did wonder why me, why should I get cancer?  I guess I will never know why, but I am a strong believer in all things happen for a reason.    The statistics say that one in three people will get cancer in their life.  I know I can't stop people close to me getting ill, but I will be able to understand from my own experiences and be able to help others in the future.  This website is my first step in helping others from my own experiences of surviving cancer.

I only have one life, I need to live it and make sure I am happy.  If not, then I have the knowledge and perhaps wisdom to change it.  It has made me see that many people are worse off than me and actually as much as having cancer has scarred me, at least I have been able to make a full recovery.

In October 2002 I was given the opportunity to give a speech at a charity ball for the Get A-Head Charity Appeal (that helped me) on my experiences of having thyroid cancer.  A copy of the speech is below with a photo of me on the night.


 
Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to take a few minutes of your time to tell you about my personal experience of the work of the Get A-Head Charity.

In April 1999, I discovered a small, painless lump on my neck. After visiting my doctor, I was promptly referred to the Quick & Early Diagnosis unit, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.  I had to have two needle aspirations and an MRI scan.  Shortly after, Mr Watkinson diagnosed me as having Cancer of the Thyroid.  This was the last thing I expected to hear and I absolutely was devastated.  At the time I was only 19 years old and had just booked the trip of a lifetime to Australia. 

Immediately after diagnosis I met Caroline, a head & neck support counsellor funded by The Get A-Head charity.  She helped me realise that having cancer did not mean I was going to die. Caroline helped me put things into perspective, and was able to explain more about the cancer I had, and what I would have to go through to recover.  The operation would leave a huge scar from the front of my neck to behind my ear. 

Whilst the effects of some cancers, such as stomach or breast cancer, can be disguised, there is no easy way of hiding the scar on the neck.  I also received some literature that Caroline had produced; these booklets are now available to patients all over the UK.

On the morning of the operation I cried, not because I had cancer, but because I was about to have a very visible scar imposed on my otherwise healthy body.  I underwent a 3hr operation to remove the tumour. 

After the operation I spent a weekend in a self-contained isolation unit where I received radioactive iodine treatment.  Thankfully this treatment does not cause terrible side effects such as hair loss and sickness.

Three and half years later I have come to accept my scar.  Every morning when I get ready, I see it in my reflection and it reminds me of how lucky I am.  With the love and care I received from my partner Tom, my family and friends, the support of the Get A-Head charity and the help and treatment I received from the staff at the Queen Elizabeth hospital, I was fully recovered and on the way to my adventures in Australia, only six months after my operation.
 

When people ask if having cancer has changed my life, I say no, it hasn't.  It did however change the way I see life and how to live it.  The 6th of May 1999 is not a black mark in my life; it is as a pointer, an indication of just how far I have come.  All that remains is for me to thank you all for your past support and for listening to me tonight.  I hope you all enjoy the rest of the evening.

I hope you have found this web site informative.  As I said before this is my account and feelings of being treated for thyroid cancer.  By no means is this going to happen to you nor are you certain to have the same experiences, but hopefully it will bring an understanding of this disease and how it may make you feel as well as preparing yourself for some of the effects that may happen.

For those reading for interest, perhaps someone close to you has been diagnosed, I hope this gives an insight into how they may be feeling.   I know I could not have got though that period without the love and care from Tom, my family and friends.  Knowing that if I needed a cry or just someone to listen was paramount to my quick recovery.

Please feel free to sign the guest book and guest map on the following pages.

If you would like to send me an email please send it to ruth_e_fawcett@hotmail.com
 

UPDATE 08/11/2003:  Tom finally proposed after seven years of being together,  we will be getting married on 30 April 2005.

UPDATE 05/2004:  I was featured in an article in Company Magazine (UK Only) which is no longer available in the shops. The photo from the first page of this website was taken by the magazine.

UPDATE 08/2004:  This is the first anniversary of the launch of this website.  I have had over 7,500 hits last year!  Not bad for a little website.

UPDATE 30/11/2004: Page 46 of The Daily Mail printed an article on my experiences.

UPDATE 30/04/2005:  We finally tied the knot, a great day was had by all.   Now Mrs Ruth Presswood!!

UPDATE 08/2005:  Reached the second anniversary of this website.  Had over 16,000 hits last year.   Am acutally really shocked it is that many, didn't think it was that many.

UPDATE 08/2006:  Third anniversary of this website.  Had over 20,000 hits last year.  Can see that I am going to smash through that already.

UPDATE 09/2006:  It has almost been seven years since I was given the all clear.  We will be celebrating our ten year anniversary since we met, with a trip to the USA in November.

UPDATE 02/2007:  We are expecting the arrival of our first baby on 08 August 2007.  We are excited about the prospects of becoming parents.

UPDATE 06/2007:  We have a son, Tobias Elliot.  He arrived a little early on 15 May 2007 at only 28 weeks gestation by emergency C-section.  He is in the NICU and is doing very well.
                            He is a little fighter like his mum but wont be home till his original birth date in August.

UPDATE 08/2007: Toby finally came home after 12 weeks and six days in hospital weighing 6lbs 4ozs.  We are all enjoying our time as a family.

UPDATE 01/2010: Alexander Thomas Presswood arrived 22 January, weighing in at a whopping 9lbs 2.5ozs.

UPDATE 04/2010: I have been in remission now for over 10 1/2 years, and still counting
 
 
 
 
 

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