hands wearing blue surgical gloves examining women's neck
Sean Cate
Sean Cate
June 8, 2024 ·  4 min read

‘My Doctor Told Me I Had a Cold, But It Was Thyroid Cancer. My Instincts Saved Me’

Abi Phillips’ story is a testament to the power of trusting one’s own instincts. At 28, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer—a condition that was only detected because she insisted on getting a deeper medical investigation despite reassurances from healthcare professionals that it wasn’t anything serious. Here is Abi’s journey, the symptoms to watch for, and advice on when to seek medical attention.

1. The Unexpected Discovery

Abi Phillips
Image Credit: Abi Phillips

Abi Phillips was living a standard life for a woman in her twenties, busy with her singing career and personal life. However, her life took an unexpected turn when she discovered two lumps in her neck. “I was getting in the car to take my dog for a walk when I felt a strange tugging sensation in my neck as I bent my head,” she recalled.1 Despite a nurse’s reassurance that it was probably nothing more than post-cold lymph nodes, Abi’s instincts told her otherwise.

With Abi’s persistence, she was able to pay for a private scan. The consultant suspected the lumps were tumors and took a biopsy. Ten days later, the results confirmed thyroid cancer.

Read More: Woman’s incurable cancer was misdiagnosed as IBS: ‘I wish I pushed back more’

2. The Diagnosis and Initial Concerns

Scrabble Thyroid Cancer
Credit: Pexels

Abi official diagnosis was papillary thyroid cancer, a common type of thyroid cancer. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck, responsible for producing hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, and various bodily functions. Abi’s decision to seek a private consultation was crucial. “I was so glad I went private or I’d have been waiting weeks,” Abi reflects, understanding that early detection was vital.

3. Surgery and Treatment

Abi post-surgery
Image Credit: Abi Phillips

Abi then underwent a seven-hour surgery to remove her thyroid and lymph nodes on the right side of her neck. Given her career choice, preserving her vocal cords was a major concern for her. Her surgeon, Neil Sharma, was able to use special equipment to make sure her vocal cords went undamaged throughout the procedure. Luckily for Abi’s, her voice was preserved.

Three months later, Abi also received radioactive iodine treatment to eliminate any remaining cancer cells. This treatment required her to stay isolated in the hospital for a week due to temporary radioactivity.

4. Understanding Thyroid Cancer

Doctor beside magnified thyroid galnds
Credit: Pixabay

Dr. Mark Vanderpump, a consultant endocrinologist, explains that thyroid cancer usually presents itself as one nodule or swelling in the thyroid gland. Symptoms can be asymptomatic and only really detected during neck examinations (which Abi pushed for) or an unrelated health scans. Essentially, unless you’re looking for it, you probably won’t find it. Thyroid cancer is relatively rare, with only two to three cases per thousand in the UK annually. It’s also more common in women than men.

Read More: ‘I found a lump in my breast – doctors gave me two weeks to live’ Dying Mother Left in Agony In Final Days After Cancer Diagnosis

5. Symptoms and When to See a Doctor

Inflamed throat
Credit: Pixabay

Recognizing symptoms early liker Abi can be life-saving. Common signs of thyroid issues include:

  • A lump in the neck, which can be mistaken for swollen lymph nodes2
  • Chronic sore throat or difficulty swallowing
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in menstrual periods
  • Dry skin or hair3

If you notice any persistent symptoms, especially a lump in your neck, it’s crucial to seek medical attention. Early detection and treatment are the key to managing thyroid disorders effectively.

6. Life After Cancer

Abi Phillips, left, with former Love Island contestant Demi Jones, who was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer about a year after first entering the villa
Image Credit: Abi Phillips

Abi’s journey didn’t end with her treatment. She then faced early menopause and has continued to manage her health vigilantly. Support from her fiancé and the Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust played a significant role in her recovery as well. Abi is now an advocate for others to trust their instincts and seek medical help when something feels off. “If I’d ignored mine, who knows if I’d be here now,” she emphasized. Doctors are medical professionals, but if someone feels off or wrong, it’s important to listen to your body. 


trust your instincts - advice or motivational reminder on a sticky note, confidence and personal development concept
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Abi’s story highlights the importance of being proactive about one’s health. Trusting her instincts led to early detection and treatment of thyroid cancer, which may have ended up saving her life. If you experience unusual symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion or further medical testing. Your health is worth the effort.

Read More: Does Junk Food Cause Cancer? Morgan Spurlock, Maker of Super Size Me, Dies From Disease at Age 53


  1. My GP surgery said I had a cold but it was thyroid cancer and listening to my instincts saved me. Now read the definitive guide to thyroids – and how to know if something’s wrong with yours.” Daily Mail. Julie Cook. May 23, 2024.
  2. Thyroid Disease Symptoms.” Very Well Health. Mary Shomon. August 30, 2023.
  3. 11 Thyroid Symptoms You Need To Know.” Health. Mikayla Morell. November 11, 2023