“I like to see my cancer as a pause in my life, a really bad pause, but a pause all the same.” - Thyroid cancer survivor Ciara
In September 2018, Ciara Garvey was at the GP for her first born daughter’s six month check-up. While there, she decided to bring something to the doctor’s attention “We were about to go away on holiday and I felt like I was coming down with something.
My GP examined my glands and noted that the left side was quite swollen. When I thought about it, it had been swollen for a while but after having a baby, I felt a bit unaware of my own body if I’m honest. She told me to come back in three weeks if it hadn’t gone away.”
Three weeks later there was no change, so Ciara was referred to St Vincent’s Hospital where an ultrasound was ordered “There was a delay in the ultrasound and by the time it came around in February, I was feeling quite unwell with flu-like symptoms. I also had absolutely no energy, everyone told me this was just due to the new baby. The swollen area was also now a large lump, it was extremely visible.”
Following the ultrasound, Ciara had a biopsy taken and in March was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer “The lump on my neck was actually a secondary tumor that had spread. By the time I got the diagnosis, I was feeling so unwell. When they told me I was strangely relieved that I wasn’t crazy, I knew something was wrong.
At the same time, of course it was a huge shock. It was my daughter’s first birthday the next day, some of the pictures of the day haunt me a bit as I think I look so lost in them.”
“I went in to the Irish Cancer Society Daffodil Centre and received lots of leaflets on my cancer type. My dad found them especially beneficial. For many people, you don’t know much about thyroid cancer until you have it. My dad read the leaflets cover to cover, they explained the treatment plans and what they actually meant for me.” Ciara adds.
Ciara underwent a Thyroidectomy and a bilateral neck dissection, removing the majority of her lymph nodes. Ciara had a very rare complication after the thyroidectomy, known as Chyle leak. As a result, Ciara had to be fed through a tube in her nose for about 5 days, ending in an emergency surgery.
In July she began Radioactive Iodine therapy. Ciara had frequent blood tests but unfortunately at Christmas discovered another lump on the right side of her neck.
“They did another ultrasound and biopsy and found the cancer had come back. The surgeon had to open up the right side of my neck again, the cancer had almost wrapped around my vocal chords. They were afraid I would lose my voice permanently but luckily this only happened for a short time. I had to start more treatment which eventually finished in July 2019.” Ciara states.
Ciara recalls one part of her cancer experience that she found particularly difficult “My daughter was so young when I was sick, she has no memory of it, which I am happy about. The treatment was so tough, I couldn’t do lots of the usual things, even changing her nappies. I also had to stop breastfeeding. There were days when I would have an hour of energy, I would use that hour to get up and play with her, she was my focus.”
It is now two years later and Ciara is doing much better “There are of course some lasting effects of my cancer, I don’t think my energy levels will ever really be good again, but I am moving on too. I am actually 27 weeks pregnant now with my second child, there were times over those years where I wasn’t sure it would happen again for me. I like to see my cancer as a pause in my life, a really bad pause, but a pause all the same.”
Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line
If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.
Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm
For more information
1800 200 700