A young mum from Newtownabbey, who has recently undergone treatment for thyroid cancer, is speaking out in a bid to make others aware of the condition.
Kylee Murphy, who is 29, was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in June of this year.
She first realised that something was wrong when she discovered a lump in her neck in February. At first she thought it was just the start of a cold, and did not think too much about it.
On a routine visit to her GP with her two-year-old son Theo, she mentioned the lump in her neck in passing.
Kylee went for tests, but still did not believe that the lump could be anything sinister. She was not prepared for the news she received in June, when she was told that she had thyroid cancer.
Kylee had not heard of the condition before, and was shocked to find out that it mainly affects women under the age of 45.
“People tend to think that cancer only affects older people, or people who smoke or drink too much, or who are obese - but no one is immune. I don’t drink much and I don’t smoke, and I’m only 29 - I never expected this,” she said.
After receiving the news that she had cancer, Kylee was faced with the prospect of having to tell her husband Conor and son Theo. She also had to tell her parents who had just returned from holiday.
Kylee’s consultant at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast was a massive reassurance for her.
“He said he would do everything to fix it. I went into his office in the depths of despair and came out walking on air and for the first time thinking ‘I can do this, it is going to be fine’. He was wonderful and very reassuring,” she said.
While undergoing 10 hours of surgery to remove her thyroid on June 30, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to the other side of her neck.
“I have a scar going from each ear across my collar bone, which was difficult for me to deal with. I am not vain but I just kept thinking ‘I am only 29 and I am disfigured now’, and that was difficult,” Kylee revealed.
Kylee had not spent time apart from Theo before, but decided it would be better if he did not see her while she was in hospital.
“I really missed my son but I didn’t think that the hospital was the right place for him. For the first few days, I couldn’t move and was in pain, with lots of drains and drips, and I didn’t want him to see me like that,” she said.
Kylee recently had radioactive iodine treatment at Belfast City Hospital to kill off any remaining cancer cells and was held in isolation for the first three days after the treatment, with no physical contact with anyone. She then had to spend a week living with her granny as she was not allowed any contact with her young son due to the radioactivity.
Kylee will find out within the next six months if her treatment has been a success. If it has not worked, she will have to undergo the treatment again. Despite this, she is staying positive.
“I’ve done my fair share of crying about it and being angry about it. Theo is the best possible reason to get up in the morning. I think if he wasn’t here it would be very easy to go to bed and feel awful about it, but he is my reason to get better,” she added.
Kylee strongly urges other young women to be aware of thyroid cancer.
“If my story persuades just one person to go to the doctor immediately they find a lump in their neck, then that will make it worthwhile for me,” she said.
Thyroid cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, a small gland at the front of the neck, just below the voice box (thyroid). Symptoms may be vague at first because thyroid cancer grows very slowly. The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a painless lump or swelling that develops in your neck, which gradually gets bigger. Other symptoms only tend to occur after the condition has reached an advanced stage and may include unexplained hoarseness or changes to your voice, difficulty breathing and swallowing and pain in your neck.
If you have any concerns about cancer call the Cancer Focus NI free helpline on
0800 783 3339 and speak to a specialist nurse.