The Early Years
As singers, we spend most of our time concerned with studying technique, analysing the production of sound, scrutinising vocal health, and honing performance skills. There was a time when I can look back and honestly say that I had never considered the function of the thyroid in the body…. or, as I have come to learn, the fact that the body is driven by that amazing engine. I was a very active, healthy young woman… when I wasn’t singing or travelling, I enjoyed long solitary days riding my horse through the Australian bush. I was a party girl – I never felt tired, and could burn the candle at both ends, living life to the very rim.
You may remember the story of Pandora who opened a box and released the evils of the world. There are some things in my life that I have had to compartmentalise in boxes that I never open. Anorexia Nervosa is one of them.
Many young women – and men – develop Anorexia Nervosa in early life. At 22, I ventured down this slippery slope. I dropped my healthy 174cm, 65 kilos, body down to an emaciated 45 kilos on a diet of an apple, one small carton of yoghurt, and a tablespoon of muesli a day. I did this in a matter of weeks. Never happy with my weight, there were times when I weighed substantially less, and was so tired that I couldn’t walk down the hallway without using the walls to prop myself up. The fridge was full of food belonging to my flatmates, but for me – the perfect starver – there was no temptation. Starving empowered me. I was strong because I could resist nourishment of any kind, and a bite of anything would unleash a guilt trip of self-recrimination that was simply not worth the pain and suffering. I now understand that the cause of this destructive behaviour was a never-ending quest for perfection, or perhaps – more correctly – my constructed idea of perfection.
“At the end of the song, the Piper will be paid”. Did my auto-immune disorder and thyroid problems developed because of genetics, or because of Anorexia Nervosa? Most Doctors are of the opinion that it may have been a major player. Auto-Immune disease is a condition whereby the body attack its own cells – Hashimotos Thyroiditis is an auto-immune disorder which causes the immune system to misfire and attack the cells of the thyroid. I became “hypothyroid”. Over a period of a few years, my thyroid flagged to a very low functionality – and this led to debilitating fatigue, mood swings, joint pain, insomnia, inflammation, fluid retention, weight gain, general anxiety, overwhelming panic attacks, and depression. I was so tired that I could have slept all day, and yet I could not sleep at all. I gained weight rapidly, became sluggish and moody, and although I struggled to continue on as before, it was almost impossible to drag myself through a day. When I did sleep, I would wake unable to breathe. I later learnt that a goitre had developed in my throat where the thyroid, under attack from my immune system, was working hard to pump out enough hormones to keep me alive. My thyroid was becoming a heavy weight champion, and I had become an unwitting host to a dangerous tenant.
I have never had Asthma, but for some years, the thyroid condition was misdiagnosed as asthma due to my difficulty breathing at night. I was treated with Ventolin. By chance, when my Doctor was on holidays, his replacement (a young Locum from England who had seen a lot of thyroid disorders in his locale) noticed the swelling in my throat, and ordered tests. It was confirmed, by ultrasound scan and blood tests, that I was suffering from Hashimotos Thyroiditis. Hashimotos is treated by replacing the decreased amount of natural thyroid hormone with a synthetic version. The thyroid decreases in size, and the body is, to some degree, stabilised. I say “to some degree” because thyroid hormones fluctuate constantly under instruction from the pituitary gland in the brain. Taking a regular daily dose of a specific amount isn’t quite the same as a naturally regulated dispensation of the hormone, but it keeps us alive and firing. Although the goitre disappeared, and I didn’t feel quite so fatigued, many of the symptoms remained.
I had sustained an injury to my right knee as a schoolgirl. At 24, I was riding my horse along the verge of a main road at Samford, north of Brisbane, enjoying his company, and a pleasant summer afternoon. The earth had been freshly turned for a new road. He stumbled, and I was thrown head first over his nearside shoulder, landing on my back. He somersaulted through the air and landed on top of me. I was lucky enough to not break any bones, however both knees, most specifically the right one, were injured under his weight. He was a loyal horse, leapt to his feet, and stood nudging me with his nose. He had taken skin off his forehead, and broken the tree in my saddle from the force of his fall. Several cars stopped, but I insisted on riding home. I promptly passed out in the saddle, and my sensible gelding crossed the main highway five times on his own, balancing his unconscious rider carefully. It is a great animal who looks after his rider when they have no ability to care for themselves. Time and again, my horses and other animals have been a support to me throughout my life, and it saddens me to see how often this is taken for granted by people, and how many animals end their lives in shelters. As time has progressed, I have undergone several knee surgeries, none of which have been successful. I live with it, but it is degenerative, and the problem that is faced by many who have succumbed to this type of injury is a loss of Articular cartilage and constant joint pain. Last year, I shattered my wrist and hand, and I am now working on regaining enough movement to play the piano. The subject of joint pain leads me to the next topic… Ross River Fever.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Dalai Lama XIV
Keeping to a regime of replacement hormone, regular blood tests and scans, the Hashimotos was well managed until 2011. In 2011, I was stricken with Ross River Fever, a virus carried by mosquitoes. Ross River is a debilitating illness prevalent in Queensland, and the Tropics. It hit me like a freight train just after midnight on Christmas Eve of that year. I was literally shocked awake by burning pain in every joint of my body.
Ross River creeps up quietly at first, beginning with fatigue and a general feeling of malaise for some days prior to the pain and fever. Looking back, this explains why, during the week prior to Christmas, I was able to give my daughter driving lessons with uncanny calm. If it was good for nothing else, certainly it numbed my reactions to some of her more interesting manoeuvres as a learner driver on the motorway. I went riding every morning because I was training a freshly broken young mare and couldn’t leave her, but felt so ill after ten days that I sought medical advice. Blood tests confirmed Ross River. The fatigue lingered, and repeated attacks of Ross River led me to suspect that my immune system and health were not at an optimum. Despite the fact that blood tests indicated that my thyroid was stable, this decline in general health was instrumental in my decision to undergo testing of my thyroid.
I had auditioned for a revue, and the solo piece was “Something Wonderful” from “The King and I”. (Rogers and Hammerstein) This is a good big sing, and although the notes were not high, I did feel some unusual tension in my upper register. I was working, also, on “Piangero la sorte mia“, ( from the opera, Julio Cesare, by George Frideric Handel) and “Song to the Moon”, a lovely piece from the opera, “Rusalka”, Antonín Dvořák. To my dismay, I was really struggling with the highest notes in both pieces. I decided to investigate whether my Hashimotos really was stable, whether I was taking the correct amount of replacement hormone, and whether I had completely recovered from the latest episode of Ross River Fever.
The Hand of Fate ….
I have a strong belief in fate, and the fact that the world will provide us with that which we need when we need it. A young General Practitioner, Doctor Jessica, had taken up a position with the local practice that very week. She ordered thorough blood testing of my thyroid function, following it up with an Ultrasound scan. Thyroid nodes are not the nodules which can develop on the vocal folds of singers. They are entirely different, and are commonly present on the thyroid of most people. I had previously undergone thyroid ultrasounds, and was aware that the nodes on my thyroid were small, but this more recent check indicated that two had enlarged slightly. They were still relatively small, one being well under a centimetre in diameter, and the other just over a centimetre.
Nodes are not usually a cause for concern unless they are growing rapidly, or quite large, and they are not routinely tested by Fine Needle Aspiration unless they have grown to over a centimetre. Doctor Jessica urged me to see a Specialist, and requested a Fine Needle Aspiration to be performed. The FNA tests proved to be negative, and the Endocrinologist suggested that I wait for a year before returning for further tests because it was unlikely to be thyroid cancer. This did not sit well with me. I have been a singer all of my life, and, to put it quite simply, I felt something was wrong. I requested a consultation with a Surgeon to discuss the possibility of a Thyroidectomy. The Endocrinologist was reluctant to offer a referral, considering it unnecessary because the nodes were small, and the FNA negative. He warned of the risk factors of surgery, and the possibility that the surgery would see the removal of a healthy thyroid for no reason. I pressured him for further investigation to be carried out, and attended an appointment with a Professor who specialised in Thyroid disorders. I do remember that the referral was given to me largely, as it stated, to set my mind at rest and appease my anxiety. Having been down this path for some years now, I can understand that Thyroid Cancer can be hiding under a mask of symptoms and blood results that are indicative of the presence of only Hashimotos.
It was my dogged persistence, lifelong experience as a singer, and the fact that Doctor Jessica supported my belief, that saw my cancer discovered. One year after my surgery and on the very day that she was finally able to give me happier news that the cancer was “suppressed” for the time being, Doctor Jessica informed me that it was her last day at the practice. It was as though she had been sent to care for me in the time that I needed her, and I hope that, one day, our paths will cross again under different circumstances.
“How Will You Feel if you are Never able to Sing again?”
In April, 2012, I attended an appointment with a Thyroid Surgeon in Brisbane. We discussed my concerns, and he read through the reports at length. He noted that I was a singer, and singing teacher, and advised me that a thyroidectomy was a very risky procedure for singers because there was a definite possibility of damage to the voice. I might never sing, might lose a significant part of my register, or never even speak clearly, again. It was of very real risk for a Soprano because of the possible loss of top notes. Although downhearted at the possibility, I considered that becoming a Mezzo was a worthy option.
This surgeon performed his own ultrasound and laryngoscopy. It proved that my vocal folds were pristine, the product of good training and careful use of the voice. He did, however, note that the blood tests indicated a little more than usual blood flow in the area. Other than that, the only obvious problem showing up was my Hashimotos Thyroiditis. At this point, the surgeon gave me a choice. He said, ” This could just be your Hashimotos. I would like you to go away for three weeks and consider how you will feel if you can never sing again. It is a very real possibility. Thyroid cancer is rare, more often the nodes are benign, and we will be risking either damage, or complete loss of, your voice. We may be removing a healthy thyroid for no reason.”
The Three Longest Weeks….
Three weeks later, I returned to the surgery, and was asked if I had made a decision. I had. The voice is a very honest instrument, and mine was telling me that something wasn’t right. Surgery was scheduled for the following Tuesday, only a few days later.
Angels Walking With Us
I left the hospital, broken hearted. It was a beautiful, clear, April day, always my favourite month in Brisbane. I walked up the hill, past people chatting at the cafeteria, past the train station and commuters travelling to work, and through the “normal” world while my mind was a racing jumble. I conjured up all of the worst possible scenarios! I could not look up, nor could I look into the faces of passers by. The possibility of never singing again, the possibility of cancer, was overwhelming. If I looked candidly into the eyes of others, would they see that agony? At the pedestrian crossing, I pressed the button, and returned my gaze to the footpath.
There, when the concrete was setting, someone had immortalised the word “Angel” in a large flowing script. I smiled, and looked up. April is beautiful. The sun had returned to the day, and the blossoms to the trees. If only we are willing to look around, we will find that which we need.
The Surgeon had decided that, due to the risk factor to my voice, and unlikelihood of it being malignant, he would choose to err on the side of conservatism, and perform a hemithyroidectomy only. He would remove half of the thyroid where the biggest node was visible on the ultrasound. That night, I woke up in a hospital bed, with an ice pack on my head, and a row of metal staples in my throat. Surgery was successful, the stay in hospital relatively uneventful, and I returned home on Thursday afternoon.
Two hours later, I was milking my cow when the phone rang. It was the Surgeon, informing me that the biopsy proved Thyroid Cancer to be present, not only in the large node, but every single node including the smallest, as well as mass of the thyroid itself. The other lobe would need to be removed as soon as possible, and this was done the following Tuesday. This time, the surgery was very difficult, lymph nodes had to be removed and checked, and he was forced to leave some tissue behind or one of the vocal nerves would have been permanently damaged. I was glad that I was “out cold” when that decision was made for me! I had spent much time performing in theatres, and I was not enjoying my latest engagements in theatres of a totally different kind. I remember that, on the second surgery, the Doctor asked me which Opera I loved the most. My final words, before succumbing to anaesthetic, were “La Boheme… Puccini…”
“I’m Really Sorry – We Did Find Cancer.”
Chilling words that no one wants to hear. I cannot say that I was shocked, nor did I lose an entire night of sleep, because I had some inkling beforehand. I did have a restless night, some of which was spent contemplating that old favourite of insomniacs, the ceiling.
The following morning, I remember very clearly making the decision that I was not going to allow this new event in my life to take control. Leaving the property, I paused to reflect upon the beauty of the world around me. Once you hear the words, “you have cancer”, there is no doubt that the grass is greener, the mountains more timeless, and the world and everything in it, far more beautiful than it was the day before. I watched my horse grazing peacefully in the paddock, the shadows falling across the valley, and made a decision which has become my credo. “I cannot control the outcome, but I will determine the experience.” That afternoon, I brought Neraya, my mare, in from the paddock, washed and groomed her, and took her to Boonah Show the following morning. In the photo above, the fresh wound is clearly visible, as is the swelling in the area. We came away with only a second place, but the young horse and I were the real winners in that show ring on that day. Together, we set in stone how I would manage my illness, and she and my chestnut gelding have been my co-conspirators along the journey.
Consequently, I returned to work immediately, unable to speak in little more than a hoarse whisper. In fact, I could have dubbed the part of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather”. At times, my voice would disappear and speaking beyond pianissimo led to fatigue and a sore throat. I won’t say that it was easy to teach music, but we all persevered, and my students were a credit to me. A few months later, Voce Bella students won the Championship and Overall Encouragement Award at Brisbane Eisteddfod, and took both First and Second place in the Championship at Silkstone. In my first public performance after surgery, I sang a duet of Panis Angelicus, a song I have now recorded as a credit to all of the angels in my life. I was able to make a fairly ragged effort of the top line, and it was an encouraging sign that I would sing again at some stage.
Because thyroid cancer is, in my case, genetic, I also tried to inspire my daughters to face adversity with courage. Now that I am singing and recording, I hope to inspire others who have to endure the same struggle to never give up, to pick up the pieces, and pursue their dreams.
Setting off the Geiger Counters
I have always been cautious of radiation, having read at length the horror stories of Maralinga, and other nuclear testing sites. It was beyond my wildest imagination that, one day, that very same type of radiation would be handed to me to ingest as part of a programme to try to save my life.
The most favoured treatment for Thyroid cancer is RAI or Radio Active Iodine, I-131. Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body which uptake iodine, and so the general treatment is to starve the body of iodine, and then provide a dose of it in the form of a pill which has been subjected to a substantial amount of I-131 radiation. The desired effect is for the thyroid cells to uptake the radio active substance, ablating remnant tissue.
I have a very rare form of Thyroid Cancer, and at the time of my diagnosis, there were only 80 documented cases in the world since the discovery of this cancer in 1995. There isn’t a lot of joy in being one of such a small number because it hasn’t allowed for considerable study… and of course, this leads to some speculation as to my prognosis. The most important part of my prognosis is therefore my decision to live long and pursue my passions.
With RAI, the patient embarks on a low iodine diet for a fortnight, and is then administered two Thyrogen injections which cause the cells to uptake as much iodine as possible. My new GP had never seen them, and failed to advise me that it is best to rest after the needles, and not drive for an hour to perform at a Christmas concert for Marburg Harness Racing Association. Nonetheless, I survived, had a blast, and was admitted to hospital early next morning for RAI treatment.
In Australia, this is performed under strict medical supervision. Patients are cloistered away from the public in lead lined rooms of hospitals, and not allowed to leave until a Geiger counter is run over their body and surroundings, and the level of retained radiation is acceptable. It is still required that those who have taken the radiation keep their distance from other people and pets, and neither prepare food nor make contact with them for a couple of weeks.
For me, this was almost worse than the surgery because I was very concerned about the side-effects of the radiation. I read extensively on the subject, and consulted other Specialists for second opinions as to whether I should go ahead with it. Doctors were reluctant to assist me with a choice because the Hurthle Cell variant that is a part of my cancer is a problem. Those little Hurthle Cells are troublemakers, and do not respond to RAI. Ultimately, one specialist made this comment, a remark that made the most sense to me. “We should always try to do something which will cause us to have no regrets. At this time, we can try to control your cancer with RAI. It may or may not be of any value. In five years time, if it has metastasized to your bones and lungs, we can not offer you that choice.”
With a great deal of trepidation, I underwent isolation and Radio-Active Iodine Therapy on December 17, 2012.
Let’s not forget that I had absolutely so much fun singing at an event the night before! It really helped to dull the stress.
I had been told that I would become very fatigued, and possibly ill, because of the RAI. I didn’t feel ill, nor did I feel tired during my entire stay in hospital. However, it seems I had misunderstood exactly WHEN I would feel fatigued. I arrived home and was very weary for some months after treatment. My hair became dry and broke off easily. I was flagging, and glad of the Christmas school holiday break from tuition. I didn’t get to spend time with my daughters at Christmas because of the radiation, but we did celebrate a month later. However, my fatigue and loss of joie de vivre carried on well into the new year, 2013, and my energy levels were at an all time low for months.
My friend and pianist was also battling thyroid cancer at that time, but neither of us discussed it at Eisteddfodau. Lynette played for my students, and in May of that year, Voce Bella Studio won their age Championship at Ipswich Junior Eisteddfod for the third year in a row. We have since won it a further two, totalling five years consecutively. I am very proud of my young ladies for the effort they have put in to do so. Every single one of my students, and all of their parents, rallied in support of me. Human nature is intrinsically one of kindness, and I saw this many times during those months. I still have the video of my young piano student, dressed as Santa Claus, singing “Ho Ho Ho! Happy Christmas, Helen!” to me. I will keep it for posterity, and generously offer it back for his family to air at his 21st!
Vale Lynette Gordon, accompanist, soprano, and beautiful friend. You will be remembered fondly by all. No Eisteddfod has ever been the same without your playing for us, but we will remember you in the music you played, and the songs you sang.
In 2013, I took Neraya, my young mare, to the local shows, and she won many places, both led, and under saddle, including Champion Mare. I keep her collection of ribbons on the wall to remind me never to let go of my dreams. I had ridden horses all of my life, but never in shows, and it had been a dream of mine to do so… I didn’t think I would be fulfilling that dream when I had just undergone surgery, and was battling cancer… but in the end, it is never too late, and nothing matters except that we follow our hearts. I also never thought I would be bringing out my debut singles at this later stage of life, or after surgery for thyroid cancer. Age is a gift, not a limitation.
This Tiny Black Dot
One of the Oncologists I consulted about the side effects of RAI had found it fascinating that, in order to find myself endowed with this rare form of cancer, I needed to have a history of Hashimotos and to carry the Melanoma gene. Although he found it quite fascinating, I thought, “NOW, I will have to get that checked!”
Two weeks later, I consulted a Specialist and pointed out anything that I thought might even remotely be like a Melanoma, however they were just the usual array of moles and sun damage that are common in this country. We had almost finished the examination when he discovered “this tiny black dot” that was an early stage Melanoma. I have had it removed, and moved on, but how pertinent are these words… “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today, Tomorrow will be dying.” (Robert Herrick, 1591 – 1674)
I have to look at it as “the silver lining”. If I wasn’t diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer, I would have never found the Melanoma at such an early stage.
“I’m Weary All the Time”
(lyrics from “Stormy Weather”, Ted Koehler/Harold Arlen)
After the RAI, I was “weary all the time”. Neraya proved to be a wonderful distraction for me, and I continued to teach. I sang at events for charity, perhaps not my best performances – it’s hard to sing a whole song well with only half a voice – but it was a lot of fun, and we raised money for very worthwhile causes such as Habitat for Humanity and Footprints in the Park. I became involved with the Welsh community, and sang at their events, annual dinner, and Christmas party, both in English and in Welsh. They were wonderfully supportive, and reciprocated by teaching me to sing and speak in (sometimes) passable Welsh. I’m not a native speaker, and to say it’s a difficult language is an understatement! My students, during that year, not only placed, but won multiple Bursaries, Scholarships, and Championships at Eisteddfodau, as well as other singing competitions. I was able to attend most of their performances, and whilst I could not sing, I could derive some pleasure from their success. However, it is deeply saddening to be a singer, unable to give true voice to song, yet coaching others to perform. These were, indeed, dark days, and yet strangely enlightening. In order to sing again, I had to become more intimately acquainted with the workings of my voice than ever before. It was a learning experience, and a positive one in so many ways.
I was working on rehabilitating my voice, and had found that I could manage to sing up to an F with a reasonable standard. My voice was obviously damaged, but not destroyed, or perhaps still in transition. I attended a Speech Therapist who confirmed that there was no significant damage – for example, vocal paralysis – but that it would take considerable time and effort to reach a standard whereby I could resume performance. I could not get past F5, and was in the doldrums, depressed, weary, frustrated, and mourning the loss of my voice. At this time, more than ever, I realised that, as singers, the extent to which we define ourselves by our voices and by giving voice to music. Without it, I was lost. It was by sheer good fortune that I love my horses as much as singing, and they saw me through these times when I simply could not get the voice to hold a note, when it was unpredictable, when it broke on notes, or worst of all, completely disappeared. There were times when my sense of humour kicked in… I remember working on an aria with a student who was unable to reach the top note, a B Flat. Momentarily, I forgot that I couldn’t sing, and to encourage her, boldly gave voice to silence. We just looked at each other, and laughed.
I would like to be able to say that I was always optimistic, unruffled and positive, however it would be untrue. I had good days when I was completely elated, only to find that, a day later, I could barely sing a quality note. I bungee jumped between elation and despair. I threw tantrums, tore up music, ranted and raved, and sunk into depression, sometimes by the hour. I gave Lady Macbeth a good run for her money, hand wringing and wailing when my voice failed on me time and again.
And when I did perform a few times, singing in public, it let me down in what can only be described as spectacular fashion by “failing to proceed” – usually on a high note! It was as though my voice were flowing like water up a pipe, and was suddenly cut off by a lid. This went on for well over a year, and was the worst side effect of all. Half way through a note, the sound would just shut down.
It was at this time that I truly realised, more than ever, the value of exercises and vocalises. I sang exercises of all kinds, on different vowels, for two years, without learning a single song to performance standard. My voice was progressing, and returning, note by note, month by month. Eventually, I decided that I should find a mentor, preferably one who was very resilient, and possessed of a wonderful sense of humour. Thus it was that I spent a year singing exercises under the watchful eye, or perhaps ear, of a colleague. To this day, I will always smile when I remember the quizzical look, topped with “Hmmm…. I think someone is a little impatient, don’t you?” Dear Gordon. How often you made me smile when I felt like crying.
Project Puccini, and Opera Queensland
In 2014, I was still battling to get my voice back. A student brought me a newspaper clipping which advertised an audition for “Project Puccini”, an innovative project by Opera Queensland. The opera, La bohème (Giacomo Puccini) would be held in Ipswich, featuring Principals from Opera Queensland, and a chorus made up of members from the local community. Although I loved the idea of participating in the production, and knew it would be very good for my voice, I was reluctant to audition, and didn’t register for it. However, eventually, I went along because my student wanted to audition. Due to the time factor, I was very much under prepared and still struggling with half a voice. With music, two halves do not make a whole! In fact, to compound matters, I had only a borrowed practise cd that I had never used before, one I discovered – during the audition – was at a tediously slow tempo. It is a wonder that the panel were not horizontal by the time I had finished trawling through it. I chose the piece, Panis Angelicus (Latin for “Bread of Angels” ) (Cesar Franck) It was the first piece that I had performed live after my recovery, and it seemed a fitting tribute to the “Angel”, a good omen. Despite all of the factors against me, I was very pleasantly surprised to gain a place in the chorus.
My work with Opera Queensland Helped me to Sing Again
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it was my involvement in Project Puccini, and my later participation in the Opera Queensland Community Chorus for G20 “Colour Me Brisbane” that finally helped me across the finish line to sing again. My unpredictable and unreliable voice was exercised for most of the year, rehearsing and singing arias in great company, and under the guidance of wonderful musicians including, but not limited to, Jason Barry-Smith and Narelle French. Not only are they talented and accomplished, but their support and kindness helped me to regain my lost confidence and sense of self. It is one thing to be teaching students who are passing exams with Honours and winning Championships, Bursaries and competitions, and quite another to get up and sing yourself with a damaged voice. It is even harder if you are a singing teacher because the general public have expectations of your level of performance, but no knowledge of personal health issues.
The true professionals, real musicians, will always support others. No one gets ahead by trampling down those who are climbing a ladder. I am still working on my voice, still studying, still on the journey with cancer, but I have had many angels step up to help me, and walk alongside. An honest Standardbred mare who failed in her career on the track, and a young Quarter Horse gelding who lent me some of his bold attitude, my good and true horses who lent me their wings when I needed to feel freedom. Doctor Jessica, my skilled surgeon, and my Oncologist – who is extra special because he also plays the clarinet. Friends who asked me to sing at their charity concerts despite my voice not being at an optimum. The Welsh of St Davids, Blackstone, who welcomed me into their community, taught me Welsh, and were ever generous with praise. My students who remained faithful to me, and worked harder than ever. My daughters who tirelessly visited me in hospital after work, and who were brave enough to point out the fact when I was depressed, and needed to seek help. My mentor, Gordon, and my teacher from days gone by, Beverley. My friend, Kelly Bond, who helped me at shows, and tacked up my horse when I was too weak to lift a saddle on to her back. My friend, Faye, who is always there for me. And lastly, the wonderful people at Opera Queensland who just happened to come along with exactly the right Opera at just the right time, and helped give me back the gift of song.
This above information is based on personal experience only. I am not a health care professional, nor do I give advice on the subject. This is merely an account of my journey with Hashimotos and Thyroid Cancer, and the information provided should be regarded as hearsay based on information given to me during my diagnosis, surgery, and rehabilitation. For a more complete understanding of some of the terms or medical conditions mentioned, please copy these links into your search bar.