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OPINION: Thyroid cancer awareness month – how an Instagram post (probably) saved my life

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Forgive the melodrama… but as thyroid cancer awareness month begins I’m  grateful I’m here to say that Instagram probably saved my life.

It was 11.30pm and my other half had just begun his nightly Ted Talk on why blue light before bed is the reason I have insomnia.

It was also a full day since I had cleared my throat, felt it sting, and instinctively put my hand to the sore spot.

If that seems oddly specific it’s because that one reflex – a gentle rub of the skin over my sore throat – brought to my attention an unforgettable lump in my neck.

Lindsay Bruce and family.

I had initially talked myself into believing it was nothing.

But there I was, almost exactly 24 hours later, scrolling past a tracksuit with Nicholas Cage’s face all over it and a sea of “before and after” photos of house renovations when I came to an abrupt halt.

While Mr Bruce continued his impassioned plea for me to get off my phone, a dark blue image caught my attention.

Thyroid cancer symptoms felt familiar

Advertising a cancer clinic somewhere in India the title simply said this: signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer.

No prizes for guessing what topped the list…

A neck lump.

Next?

Pain when you swallow.

I could feel my heart pulsating in my ears and in the depths of me I just knew I had to pay attention.

A GP appointment the next day kick started a series of hospital appointments, scans and biopsies.

A Covid-related triage system deemed me low risk and so I was scanned on a machine older than the person operating it.

Lindsay Bruce takes a hospital selfie.

The initial “nothing to worry about” was eclipsed by “let’s re-do it on a more advanced machine”.

And that “borderline” result became overshadowed by “actually Mrs Bruce, something’s not right”.

Turns out the “likely nothing” lump was now part of a set. My lymph nodes decided to join the party.

And so late in the evening last November my phone rang at home.

Tests turn to treatment

A surgeon who, because of Covid, I’d yet to see in the flesh, called to explain that thyroid tissue had been found in my lymphatic system.

And while he couldn’t be certain, it did indicate cancer.

Lindsay shows off her thyroid cancer treatment scars.

Long story, two operations and one lot of radiation later, I remain someone who has papillary thyroid cancer.

Most of it has been cut out or nuked out, but the treatment is ongoing.

Thank God it was found early though because my prognosis is really good.

But it could have been so, so different.

Had I not seen that Instagram post… well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Lindsay’s wounds are healing.

And so this is me, Notting Hill style, just a girl in front of all of you, asking you to love yourself enough to check your neck.

And your boobs. Or your bits.

Don’t be passive about your health.

Lindsay has a new outlook on life after her thyroid cancer treatment.

As thyroid cancer awareness time rolls around next month the temptation is to keep on scrolling.

We can all find ourselves so compassion fatigued that even the most dramatic health campaigns fail to register as something to take seriously.

But nothing is more important.

I’ll go to my grave seeing the look of fear in my youngest son’s eyes when I first mentioned the C word.

But thanks to that Instagram post, I also got to tell him that everything was going to be okay.

  • To read more of Lindsay’s journey follow her on Twitter: @llbruce or Instagram @lindsaythebruce

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