Student thought she had mumps, but golf ball-sized lump on her neck was deadly

It was like any other ordinary evening for a young woman in South Wales.

Layla Phillips was about to go clubbing with her Swansea University friends, but when she started putting on her necklace, she noticed something disturbing.

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“I felt a lump in my neck, and I thought that was a little strange, but we had mumps in the halls at college, so I thought that was it,” he said. recalls the 22-year-old, who was 20 at the time. .

“The lump was huge – probably just a bit smaller than a golf ball. I kind of forgot about it, but when it didn’t turn into mumps I started to worry. C was visible, and if I looked up and swallowed in the mirror, I could see it moving up and down.”

Miss Phillips returned to see her mother in Bath a few weeks later for the Christmas holidays, and her mother advised her to have the mass checked.

“I made an appointment with my GP, they were absolutely amazing,” Miss Phillips said.

“I had a phone call with them and then the next day they brought me into the practice and then referred me to the hospital for an ultrasound and a needle biopsy. Because the Covid pandemic -19 had started, I had to go on my own.was a bit strange, but I just had to keep going.

“The biopsy came back indeterminate and they couldn’t tell what was wrong with me. Biopsies are graded on a scale of one to five, with one being completely benign and five being definitely cancer, and mine was a three .”

Miss Phillips was given the option of having the mass removed and tested, which she chose to do, undergoing an operation in June, which also saw the left side of her thyroid removed.

Layla Phillips pictured in hospital

“I had to go to the hospital for the operation on my own as we were in the middle of the pandemic,” she said.

“It was probably harder for my mum and dad that they couldn’t be there, and they felt so helpless. None of us had been through anything like this, and they just had to wait at home that I call to say the surgery went well and I woke up. The staff however were great.”

But there had to be shocking news ahead for Miss Phillips and her family. He was diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma, also known as thyroid cancer.

“I was told there was a very low chance it was cancer, and a call was scheduled to check after the operation,” she said.

“I was recovering very well and waiting for positive news, it was a total shock. To be in your bedroom at home and find out you have cancer on the phone is awful.

“I went downstairs and told my mum, and she had already guessed it was cancer because of the length of the phone call. She said “let’s take a few deep breaths” and then I remember that because I had to self-isolate for two weeks before the hospital, we were very practical about it and went shopping!

“The doctor was so apologetic on the phone and overall I think it was best that I got the news soon, so my treatment could start as soon as possible. Otherwise, because I was back back home in Bath, I would have had to go to Swansea for the news and then return to Bath to self-isolate for two weeks in preparation for another operation, so it was quicker to just deliver the news over the phone.

“It probably would have been easier for me to hear it face to face, but I appreciate that they wanted me to start my treatment as soon as possible.”

Miss Phillips was diagnosed with cancer during the coronavirus pandemic

Miss Phillips’ contact details were passed on to Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Coordinator Anna, who was able to give her further support through texts, phone calls and Facetime sessions.

“My medical team was amazing, but they were so busy, and I didn’t feel like I could call them up and ask them random questions,” Miss Phillips said.

“With Anna, I knew I could call her any time of the day and get an answer. If she didn’t know the answer, she had better access to people who would.

“She got to know me as a person and knew what was important to me. She got the little things, like she asked me how it was going between college and home or if I was on top of my work in college or if I needed to ask for extensions. If she wasn’t used to people my age, she wouldn’t know how to ask for these things.

“She remembered the dates, often better than me, and she contacted me afterwards.”

The second operation Miss Phillips underwent was in July and then she underwent radioactive iodine treatment.

“I was in and out of hospital for four days and it would have really helped to have someone with me. No matter how grown up you are, you’re still nervous,” she said .

“Because I was radioactive I had to be left alone in a leaded room in the hospital for 48 hours after my first treatment. It was absolutely weird – I was attending university lectures on Zoom there!

“After my last treatment they did a full body scan to see if the cancer was gone but it wasn’t clear so they said to come back the next day and I went back to the house I share with my friends academics.

“I had to be alone in my room that night, no one could come near me as I was still slightly radioactive. I spent the night panicking that the cancer had spread – was it now in my head or in my heart? I did fine during the treatment so that was definitely my lowest point, I couldn’t deal with the uncertainty. I called mom in a panic and she called drove to Swansea from Bath, and my friend let her stay in her room downstairs. Knowing she was there helped.”

Miss Phillips praised Teenage Cancer Trust for their support

The young student said her support network at Swansea during her time of illness was “incredible”.

“I chose to stay in Swansea rather than return home for treatment because that’s where I was diagnosed and met the team that would support me,” she said. declared.

“My boyfriend and my friends have become like a little family – they’ve made dates and picked me up. They probably know more about what happened to me than I do.

“It was definitely not the college experience I was expecting! But I managed to follow my studies and when I graduate, I hope to do a master’s degree and then become a child psychologist.

“Anna has been like an extra layer of support through it all. She’s also been hosting online social events during the pandemic, and I get a pack every month telling me what’s going on. There’s no pressure to do anything and it was nice to know that I can get involved and participate whenever I want to. Just knowing it was there helped me and I will be doing other events now that I’m back at university.

“That support when I was sick in particular was so important because face-to-face interactions are medical so it was good to have social support online. It means you don’t feel as isolated and boxed in. It also helped me to know that I am not the only person my age who has experienced something like this. I was put in touch with a young man who had had the same treatment as me a month before so that I could ask him questions like: ‘how did it go? and: ‘was that scary?’ It was great to have advice from someone who had just been through this. There should be someone like Anna for everyone.”

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On Easter last year, Miss Phillips had an in-person appointment where she received news she had long hoped for.

“They showed me the screen and told me there was no more evidence of cancer,” she said.

“While it was an immediate relief to hear this – and easier to believe with the photos and a written ‘no evidence of cancer’ note, it certainly took a few days to fully understand.

“My favorite part of this whole journey has been telling everyone I love I was clear and healthy, and seeing their reactions a year after my diagnosis was amazing after seeing their initial shock and concern. .

“I consider myself very lucky because I think I have the most amazing boyfriend, friends and family who have supported me and taken care of me through every step of my treatment, even in the situation. strange where the world was locked up.”

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Michael C. Ford