A mum from Co Antrim claims social media saved her family’s life last year. ‘Stand Up To Cancer’As part of a celebrity-led campaign that launches tomorrow
atricia Bird (27), was diagnosed with thyroid carcinoma last October. She is asking for people to sponsor her to stay as long as possible as part of the annual campaign of Cancer Research UK.
Stars of Derry Girls are among a host famous faces from the TV, film and sport worlds who will unite to Stand up To Cancer on Channel Four. This glittering live show will be hosted by Davina Macall, Alan Carr and Maya Jama.
Carnlough woman Patricia is backing the campaign by sharing her story, which she admits could have had a very different outcome if it hadn’t been for social media.
Patricia (27) is the mother of Tommy (5), and is married Andy (31), who is employed in the health services.
An administrator in her family’s business MG Developments, she had symptoms for six months but didn’t want to “bother”Because of the immense pressure that the NHS was under from the pandemic, her GP had to be replaced.
She was shocked to learn that her symptoms could be serious when she saw a Facebook post by a Belfast girl with the same type of cancer.
She admitted: “I had a sore throat and the lymph nodes in my neck were swollen. I was also very tired for a good number of months, starting in January 2013.
“It was the height of the pandemic and I was very aware of the pressure on my local GP surgery.
“I felt my symptoms were trivial compared to what they were dealing with, as they were so busy at that time.
“In September I was going through social media on my phone when I came across a girl from Belfast who was sharing her symptoms of thyroid cancer on Facebook.
“My symptoms were the same and I just thought I should ring my doctor and get checked out.”
Patricia was ‘red flagged’Within a week, I had an ultrasound and a biopsy.
She was still convinced she didn’t have cancer when she went alone to Antrim Area Hospital 11 days later for the results.
She said: “The ultrasound did pick up a nodule on my thyroid but they told me that often they are not cancerous.
“It is a 40-mile drive for me to the hospital and I wasn’t expecting any bad news, so I went myself. It’s just one of those things when you think it won’t happen to you.
“The consultant just came straight out with it and told me I had a cancerous tumour on my thyroid. He sat down as close as he could to me to comfort me, as we had to keep our distance.
“It was a shock and I was emotional. The consultant even rang me later that evening to see if I was all right. He was fantastic.”
Patricia had surgery and lost half her thyroid.
She will be on medication for the rest her life. The hospital continues to monitor her.
Exactly one year later she is so grateful to the girl who posted on social media that she too wants to raise awareness to help others, which is why she is backing the Cancer Research UK’s fundraiser.
She said: “The outcome for thyroid cancer is usually good and it is often not life-threatening if it is caught early, although a diagnosis is very life-changing.
“If I had left it any longer who knows what might have been, as it could have spread into my lymph nodes.
“I now keep in touch with the girl who posted on Facebook and I’ve let her know how important her post was.
“I only got checked because I read her post and if I hadn’t I might have left it even longer to go to the doctor and goodness knows what would have happened.
“I’ve now posted on social media about my experience in the hope it might help someone.
“Supporting Cancer Research UK has also helped get me back on track and Stand Up To Cancer tomorrow is something we can all do so easily at home or even in work. I hope people get on board and take part.”
To learn more about Stand Up To Cancer or how you can support it, visit su2c.org.uk
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