“I take a humorous side to things, I make jokes about it because that’s my coping mechanism, but being told you’ve ‘got the good one’ isn’t exactly the nicest thing to be told.” That’s what Phoebe Sproston tells Tyla about being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and how others react to it. Back during the pandemic, Phoebe was working from home when she spotted a lump emerging from her neck.
She did the prudent thing and notified her mother, who managed to get her a face-to-face appointment with a Physician, who sent her out with some antibiotics that didn’t have the desired effect. Fortunately, things did not end there, and she received another appointment regarding this tumor that would not go away, at which point doctors told her mother that Phoebe had cancer.
Phoebe had considered this herself because when you get an odd lump out of nowhere, there’s always the risk that it’s something dangerous, but more testing would be required to determine exactly what was going on. She was admitted to the hospital for a biopsy, a technique in which samples of bodily tissue are extracted, and while the first two rounds were inconclusive, doctors were desperate to determine the cause of the problem.
She was hurried into surgery to remove the suspicious lump from her thyroid’s right side. Phoebe would find out the outcome two days after her 18th birthday while sitting in a room with her mother and a Macmillan cancer specialist nurse. Doctors informed her that she would require another neck dissection and a complete thyroidectomy, followed by a course of radioactive iodine treatment; the thyroidectomy would also require her to take levothyroxine for the rest of her life.
Phoebe was given the all-clear in early 2022, but ‘not even eight months later,’ she was informed she needed another biopsy, and a week before Christmas, she was told she needed another surgery. She said: “They were very much of the thinking that it’s not back but we’ll do an ultrasound just in case. I think they were shocked because it might have been one of the first cases they’ve seen it come back.”
“The first operation they couldn’t get it out, it could have been sat there festering for a while.” She will now be out of work for several months to focus on her recovery; if you’d want to support Phoebe during this difficult time, a GoFundMe has been set up, which you can give to her here.
Phoebe also informed Tyla about the effect cancer has had on her social life, revealing that the constant fatigue makes it difficult to remain in touch with people, saying that ‘it’s not that you can’t be bothered or don’t care about the person, you simply don’t have the energy’. On top of that, she said that ‘you do lose a lot of friends when you get diagnosed,’ and that people seemed to turn away from her following her diagnosis.
She said: “People just disappear out of your life because they don’t know what to say to you, don’t know how to deal with it. Or they just can’t be bothered to deal with it.” She witnessed her friendship with three individuals she thought to be extremely close fall apart, but she understands that even though she’s lost some people in her life, she still has her family and some close friends.
The important thing for her is that they can make fun of Phoebe’s cancer when she needs it while also being there for her when she genuinely needs someone to talk to. The same is true for Phoebe, who stated that “the support for parents isn’t quite there yet,” and it’s something they’ve had to deal with just as much as she has.