I had a fall at work in December and that took me out of work with back problems. But then at Christmas I was starting to feel unwell. It didn’t go away. This carried on into February when suddenly my neck and my arm both swelled up.
I went to the GP and saw a nurse practitioner, who said she didn’t like the look of what she was seeing. She said that it looked like there was something wrong with the tonsils. I went to St James' Hospital and the doctor there said my tonsils needed taking out.
During all of this I was feeling like I was being pulled from one place to another. They didn't have an ear, nose and throat specialist available and so I had to wait and go to different departments. I was getting frustrated.
I had the operation within a week and the doctor told me that they would check what they remove to make sure it wasn't something more sinister. I wasn’t very worried as she said it was just a formality and nothing to worry about. Then I was called back to the hospital, and when I went into the room there was a doctor and two nurses. I still didn’t twig what was going on. Then she started asking strange questions about who I lived with and what support I had. I didn’t understand and had to keep pressing, asking them to tell me what was wrong. Then they said, ‘I’m sorry but you have throat cancer ’. I just burst out crying straight away. I immediately thought I would die and that I would be leaving my children behind. I couldn’t think straight, I was just in shock. It felt surreal, like it wasn't happening to me. The doctors explained that it was throat cancer brought about by the HPV virus , which is something that lots of people have but can cause something more serious.
I went home and I just thought that I needed to be around family and take the time to tell them all what had happened. I thought, ‘how do I tell them?’ , but knew that I had to do it. I told my children and my oldest just went to their room, while the middle child got upset and my youngest, who was four at the time, just came in for lots of cuddles. She knew that something was wrong but didn’t know what.