Cork local Katherine Dolphin Griffin was thirty-seven years old when she began to notice some changes in her voice.
“I remember it was 2012 and I was in the middle of my teaching practice as I had decided to go back and retrain as a teacher. I was juggling two small kids, who were four and eight at the time. On top of all that I was also acting as my dad Joe’s carer, who was booked in for a bone marrow transplant that week.
So when I began to feel exhausted, I thought it was due to my lifestyle. Then one day in class I was singing and one of the children said my voice sounded croaky. I felt my neck and it seemed like my glands were swollen so I decided to go to get checked out by my GP.”
When Katherine’s doctor examined her, he found a nodule in her neck. As a precaution, she was referred on for an ultrasound.
A week later during the procedure, another nodule was found on the other side of Katherine’s neck. Both nodules were biopsied.
The biopsy results were clear however the nodules were 4cm and 2cm in size and close to Katherine’s voice box. As a result Katherine was scheduled in for a surgery, removing her thyroid gland and the nodules they had found. It was following this surgery that Katherine was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.
After Katherine had recovered from surgery she was booked in to receive radioactive iodine treatment, meaning she would remain within an isolation unit for one week. She was also placed on the medication eltroxin, which she will take for the rest of her life.
Katherine went on to recover from her cancer diagnosis but unfortunately her father continued to deal with his own cancer diagnosis.
“My dad Joe had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008. He passed away in 2017, however before that time the cancer had reoccurred five separate times between those years.
"Grief was the thing that really brought me to my knees"
Dad was my world. I was very much a Daddy’s girl and one of the bosses of the house. My mum left home when I was sixteen so I very much helped him rear my brothers. My husband jokes that he will always be number two to my dad.”
“I have gone through a number of struggles in my life. Besides my cancer diagnosis, I am partially deaf, I have a bowel pace maker, I lost my fallopian tubes and gallbladder, I have coeliac disease. However, grief was the thing that really brought me to my knees.
I said to myself if I can get through this grief, I would do something to create a positive out of all this negative.”
Katherine decided to write a book, entitled ‘Hope to Cope’, with all proceeds going to the Irish Cancer Society and Marymount Hospital and Hospice.
“I wrote my book in my car during the pandemic. I would go to my car from a little respite from the madness of the house. I found writing very therapeutic and beneficial. It was difficult to revisit some of those memories but at the same time, it was healing. It is easy to forget how strong we are, and all the difficulties we manage to cope through.
“I launched my book on World Cancer Day, February 4th of this year. This was also the five year anniversary of the passing of my father and ironically a major advancement in the treatment of my dad’s cancer was also announced.”
Katherine says she feels grateful to be able to give back and help other families going through a difficult time “I have unfinished business with cancer I guess. I think there may only be one gift of cancer and that is that it makes you embrace life and challenge your fears. It stops you sweating the small stuff.”
*Photo courtesy of Donal O'Leary, Irish Country Living, The Farmers Journal.
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
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