Woman who got the all clear shocked to be diagnosed with cancer for second time just months later
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Featured Image Credit: Phoebe Sproston
"I take a humorous side to things, I make jokes about it because that's my coping mechanism, but being told you've 'got the good one' isn't exactly the nicest thing to be told."
That's what Phoebe Sproston tells Tyla about her outlook on being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and the way people treat you about it.
It all started back in the pandemic when Phoebe was working from home and noticed a lump protruding from her neck.
Thinking she'd just pulled something, she did the sensible thing and told her mum, who managed to get her a face-to-face appointment with a GP who sent her off with some antibiotics that didn't have the desired effect.
Luckily things weren't left there and she got another consultation about this lump that would not go away, and that's when doctors told her mum they suspected that Phoebe had cancer.
Phoebe had thought about this herself, because when you get a strange lump out of nowhere there’s always that possibility that it’s something very serious, but it'd take more testing to work out exactly what was going on.
She went into hospital for a biopsy, a procedure which involves samples of body tissue being collected, and while the first two rounds were inconclusive doctors were determined to work out what was going on.
She was rushed into surgery to remove the abnormal lump alongside the right side of her thyroid.
Phoebe would learn the results two days after her 18th birthday as she sat in a room with her mum and a Macmillan cancer specialist nurse.
They told her she'd need to have another neck dissection and a complete thyroidectomy, followed up with a course of radioactive iodine treatment, the thyroidectomy also meant she'd also have to take levothyroxine for the rest of her life.
Phoebe received the all clear at the beginning of 2022, but 'not even eight months later' she was told she'd need another biopsy and a week before Christmas, she was told she was going to need more surgery.
She said: "They were very much of the thinking that it's not back but we'll do an ultrasound just in case. I think they were shocked because it might have been one of the first cases they've seen it come back."
"The first operation they couldn't get it out, it could have been sat there festering for a while."
She now faces months out of work to focus on her recovery, if you’d like to help Phoebe through this time a GoFundMe has been set up which you can donate to here.
Phoebe also told Tyla about the toll living with cancer has taken on her social life as she admitted that the constant fatigue makes it hard to stay in contact with people, explaining that 'it's not that you can't be bothered or you don't care about the person, you just don't have the energy'.
On top of that are the people who seemingly turned away from Phoebe after her diagnosis, as she revealed ‘you do lose a lot of people when you get diagnosed’.
She said: "People just disappear out of your life because they don't know what to say to you, don't know how to deal with it. Or they just can't be bothered to deal with it."
She saw her friendship with three people she considered to be very close fall apart, though while she's lost some people from her life she knows she still has her family and some close friends around.
The key thing for her is they can joke around with Phoebe about her cancer when she needs it while still being there for her if she really needs someone to talk to.
The same goes the other way too, as Phoebe noted that 'the support for parents isn't quite there yet' and it's something they've had to come to terms with as much as she has.
The word 'cancer' looms over everything to the point that Phoebe's mum was so affected by it that she couldn't even say it.
The way people have talked about thyroid cancer hasn't helped either, as Phoebe remembers the moment one of her doctors told her 'you have the good cancer'.
While she says she's 'lucky it's very curable' she remembers the comment from a doctor being 'such an awful thing to say'.
Then there's the people who say 'you don't look like you're ill' because they don't look like a person's idea of a cancer patient.
She explained that while thyroid cancer patients do lose some hair they don't go bald and it can be 'gone before you knew it was there', while it being a rare and curable type.
Phoebe has found that the support available for people with thyroid cancer could do with a bit of help, as while the doctors know what they're doing on the medical side there's a mental aspect to being a cancer patient which is incredibly difficult.
She remembers hearing of a thyroid cancer patient who joined a meet up for cancer patients and 'felt like a fraud', admitting it's a feeling she's experienced too
Phoebe is doing her part to improve things along with a fellow patient she met after they were the only two who showed up for a meeting of thyroid cancer patients.
Together they're thinking of ways to shape the support process to be better for the people who need it.
Their ideas range from an 'unofficial buddy system' where they could be paired with new patients, to writing a guidebook full of frequently asked questions so that the next person going through it all has some sort of roadmap.
She said: "They don't want us to not be involved and they're not entirely sure how to help us.
"It's difficult for them, they want us to come together and talk to see what we need. We were joking that me and her were now co-founders and we get to be in charge.
"If I can be there and help that's what I want to do, we're making a platform for it."
Living with cancer has meant Phoebe can't really focus on the future or what goals she might have because right now her goal is 'to get through it'.
She said: "I'm 20 now, Covid and the cancer took away my youth. I'm 20 but I'm in the mindset that I'm 18."
As for the present, that time is occupied with finding things she enjoys doing.
One of her big passions is photography, and she got herself a new lens for her camera as a gift to herself to say 'well done, you got through everything' and right now, her preferred subjects are people and dogs.
Phoebe is working on making a wish come true, which is to either work for the Sidemen as a photographer or have the opportunity to just game with them as they’ve helped her through the entire course of her treatment.
She also has other passions she's been pursuing and it's at this point in our chat that Phoebe produces a replica prop she made of the horns occasionally worn by Tom Hiddleston's Loki in the Marvel movies.
Ultimately, she's of a mind that 'you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take' and is determined to 'constantly push to do something I enjoy and want to do'.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 8am–8pm seven days a week