Peterborough mum's life saved by getting married after doctor spots cancerous lump on her neck
Newly-wed Danielle McCulloch's life was saved by an eagle-eyed medic who she bumped into while on honeymoon.
Danielle, 26, from Peterborough, was holidaying in Cyprus just days after getting married when a doctor spotted a strange lump on her neck when she was in a supermarket.
She advised Danielle that it looked suspicious and told her she should get it checked out as soon as she landed back in the UK.
Remarkably, Danielle was diagnosed with stage three thyroid cancer just weeks later by doctors who told her without treatment, it could have killed her.
Danielle said: “I’m so grateful to that doctor for telling me what she did because she could have saved my life.
“She wasn’t even working, she was just doing her shopping.
“No-one else had ever pointed the lump out before and I didn’t think it was anything to worry about.
“Without the push to get it checked out, it could have been a completely different story.”
Danielle and her then fiancé Matt, 27, who runs a groundworks company, decided to get married abroad after booking a family holiday to Cyprus in May 2015.
As both of their families were going to be all together, they found it the perfect opportunity for an intimate beach ceremony - with their children Louis, 9, and Imogen, 4, by their sides.
But just days after tying the knot, Danielle was out shopping with her grandmother Wendy who lives on the island, when they bumped into the doctor.
“She is my nan’s doctor so she was introducing us,” said Danielle.
“Almost immediately she asked what the lump on my neck was and whether I’d had it checked.
“I had only recently had my second child and had put around a stone in weight on, so I just put it down to changes in my body.
“I didn’t really know how to take what she was saying as it was quite personal and out of the blue but she was quite insistent that when I got back to the UK I needed to go and see someone.”
After arriving home to Peterborough, Danielle struggled to get what the doctor had said out of her head and so went to see her GP.
She was immediately referred to a specialist for tests and a biopsy, however nothing showed up.
Danielle said: “I wasn’t worried at all because I really didn’t think there was anything in it.
“When the biopsy came back clear, I thought it was all just a fuss about nothing, but the doctors asked to remove the lump just to be safe.
“They carried out a pretty straight forward operation to take the mass off my left thyroid, and it was only later that they revealed it was in fact cancerous.”
Doctors at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge found Danielle was suffering from thyroid cancer.
The thyroid is a gland that is at the base of your neck, just behind the small hollow where you collar bones meet.
Cancer of the thyroid is quite rare, with around 3,000 people in the UK believed to be affected.
After having already removed Danielle’s left thryoid, where the 4cm lump was growing, medics then carried out a second operation to remove the right side.
She was then blasted with a radioactive iodine treatment to ensure any cancerous cells were destroyed.
Danielle said: “When I look back on when they gave me the news, it was like one of those adverts where you can see them talking but can’t hear what they’re saying.
“It was like the doctor went all fuzzy, I was listening but I wasn’t taking it in.
“All I could think about was my family and my two young children. It was literally this massive bombshell.”
During her treatment, Danielle had to be kept in isolation away from her children, who she told she was turning into a ‘she-hulk’ to try not to worry them.
She said: “The treatment was a really scary experience but compared to some treatment cancer sufferers have, it was a godsend.
“I had to stay away from my family and friends for a week. That was the hardest part of it.
We explained to my son that I was like the Hulk and would have this stuff in my system.
“My daughter was too young to understand. When I could see my children again and hug them it was great but I was a bit scared.
“I didn’t want to hurt them.”
Danielle, who works as a cleaner, has been left with a visible scar on her neck from the treatment and will have take medication for the rest of her life to do the work of her thyroids.
She will also have to return to hospital for bi-annual check-ups but now hopes to encourage others to visit a doctor to get any unusual symptoms checked out - no matter how small.
Danielle added: “People know their own bodies and when something doesn’t feel right, they shouldn’t just assume everything is OK.
“I’m lucky. The lump was large but contained. If I had left it much longer who knows. I knew something wasn’t quite right but I chose to ignore my body. And to be honest I’d never even heard of thyroid cancer.
“It’s a cancer maybe not a lot of people are aware about but to all my friends and family I remind them anything new or any difference in your body big or small, check it out.
“It only takes ten minutes and it could save your life.”