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January 6, 2022

Stories from Big C: Diagnosed with cancer in your 20’s | Evie Brandish

 

Beginning January 2021, Evie Brandish, a 20-year-old second year Psychology student, was diagnosed with Follicular Thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, a small gland at the base of the neck that produces hormones. Follicular carcinoma accounts for up to 1 in 10 cases and tends to affect middle-aged adults, particularly women.

Evie first noticed symptoms of Thyroid Cancer in October 2020, when she was scratching her neck and noticed a lump. It was noticeable from the side and felt fairly hard to touch.

Having learnt to be cautious when noticing a lump, Evie went straight to her GP.

When Evie received her diagnosis she said: “I felt very anxious and scared, for the fact that it was cancerous and the fact that I would have to have an operation plus further treatment. However, when my consultant told me the news, he did emphasize that I had a good prognosis and there were lots of positives to focus on, so I tried my best to focus on those.”

Evie’s family and friends were equally as anxious for her, as Evie received radioactive iodine treatment, along with a second operation.

Whilst receiving cancer treatment during the UK’s third national lockdown, Evie said the experience felt: “Very alien. When I was diagnosed, I was staying with my boyfriend, and we were still in a lockdown. This meant that I had to tell my family the news from the front door which felt very strange and wrong. However, as my boyfriend was still working, and I needed to isolate ahead of my operation, I was able to go back to my parents’ house and have their support. But this sadly meant I couldn’t have my boyfriend there to support me during my treatment which was very difficult. It was also very difficult getting treatment during the pandemic because it meant that I felt nervous going to hospital, where people were being treated for Covid. Receiving the news was equally difficult, as I couldn’t have anyone with me to comfort me, due to the hospital’s rules that you could only come by yourself.”

Before her diagnosis and pre-Covid, Evie was on a gap year travelling, which was cut short in mid-March due to border closures as Covid cases rose around the world.

Evie then started university at UEA in September 2020 and moved into halls. Once Evie had discovered the lump she moved out of halls and back home with her parents, as she knew it was too much of a risk to stay. Evie said: “The next few months felt strange after being diagnosed, I was very nervous leading up to my second operation, especially as we were still in a pandemic. I also became a lot more concerned about Covid. Beforehand I was concerned for my loved ones as opposed to myself. However, after my diagnosis I felt more vulnerable and concerned, leading to more stress and worry. I was also very anxious about my radioactive iodine treatment as it would involve isolating in a hospital room by myself and also at home when I returned. Luckily, I was offered the Covid vaccine earlier than most people my age as I was classed as vulnerable, so that relieved a lot of my anxieties.”

To help Evie cope with the stress and her anxieties, Evie was informed about Big C by her Teenage Cancer Trust Nurse, who explained the services Big C provide, mentioning the young adults support group the charity run; Free2Be, for young adults and teenagers under 25.

Evie started to join the support group which had been temporarily moved online due to the pandemic. The video calls included playing games, chatting about what the group had been up to, creative activities, and gentle exercises to help members relax. Evie said: “The sessions rarely involved speaking about cancer and our experiences, however it was just a relief to know that I was with people who had experienced similar things to me and this was also a distraction from treatment. I also started counselling sessions alongside these, which could be phone calls as well as video calls. This really helped me deal with all the feelings that had come about from my diagnosis and treatment, as well as alleviating daily stressors.”

Evie’s advice

“I would advise people who have experienced the same thing as me to speak to friends, family, and join group sessions or counselling provided by Big C. Without these I would have really struggled to have accepted my diagnosis and stay positive about the situation. I would also advise people who have symptoms, such as a lump on their neck, to get it checked out and push for help from your GP. As I was younger than most who develop cancer, my doctors weren’t expecting it to be cancerous.”

 

To hear more about Evie’s personal journey with cancer listen here.

To help Big C continue to support those like Evie, fund research projects, hospital equipment and education donate today: https://fundraise.big-c.co.uk/donate/?cpId=1#donate

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