Penelope Di Palma considers herself very lucky that her doctor ordered a thyroid function test during her visit in 2019 “I have very low iron levels, it is a genetic thing. So I would often go and get regular blood tests. It was 2019 and my regular GP wasn’t there on this day in question, so there was another doctor filling in. She asked when I had my thyroid hormone levels checked last. I said never, so she included it in my blood work.” 

When the results of Penelope’s thyroid hormone levels came back, they showed some abnormalities “She thought it might be hyperthyroidism but encouraged me to look into this further so I booked an appointment with an endocrinologist. To be honest, I wasn’t particularly happy with how this went. I was told I wouldn’t need an ultrasound straight away and to wait a number of months.

“In my gut I felt something wasn’t right. I actually have a friend back in Brazil, where I am originally from, who works as an endocrinologist. I sent my results to her and she encouraged me to book myself in for an ultrasound.” Penelope recalls.

Penelope had been living in Dublin for twelve years, this is where she met her partner Bill. 

“It was after this appointment that Bill received a job offer which would involve us relocating to Austin, Texas.

“We made the move and once we arrived in Texas, a big priority for me was finding an endocrinologist. We got booked in quickly and an ultrasound was arranged for me. Two nodules ended up showing up in my thyroid, one larger than the other. A biopsy was taken and the results came back to show the larger nodule was cancerous.” She says.

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After surgery the dogs didn’t leave my side. Sometimes it was tough as they would try to lick my wound on my neck and I had to tell them no!

Penelope was diagnosed with stage one thyroid cancer which thankfully had not spread.

“I was booked in for a thyroidectomy, a surgery to remove my thyroid gland. Coming out of this surgery wasn’t the easiest. I felt like I just slept and slept, but was still exhausted. I definitely felt a fog over myself. The surgery also means I will have to take a thyroid hormone every day from now on.

Overall though, I feel incredibly lucky to have found my cancer at an early stage. They said because I caught it early, I shouldn’t need chemotherapy or any further treatment. I will just have to be monitored every six months, have regular ultrasounds and blood tests too. I had no symptoms so I am so thankful to have had my thyroid levels checked that day.” Penelope adds.

During the Covid lockdowns, Penelope decided to set up a small business “I remember we couldn’t go any further than 2KMs from the house, so sometimes our dogs Zelda & Harley were the only things motivating us to get out and go outside. I started making them little bandanas at home to wear. Then eventually I started designing harnesses for them to wear. It was something to help me pass the time in the evenings after work.”

Penelope also adds that her dogs brought her great comfort during her own diagnosis “I remember after the surgery I was lying in bed asleep and the dogs would fall asleep next to me. They didn’t leave my side throughout the whole thing really. Sometimes it was tough as they would try to lick my wound on my neck and I had to tell them no!”

Penelope decided to create a line of products for her brand Zelda & Harley, with 100% of the profits going toward the Irish Cancer Society “This is my way of giving back to an organisation that has been so supportive of those affected by cancer, I am so happy to be able to support this important cause.” 

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