A student who lost eight stone after her cancer was misdiagnosed as an eating disorder for several years has recovered – and is training to become a fitness instructor.
At her heaviest Cerys Head was a size 22 and weighed 18 stone – but she shrunk to a size 10 after losing nearly half her body weight in a year.
She sought medical help at the age of 16 to try and discover the cause of her dramatic change – only to be wrongly told she had developed an eating disorder.
Doctors missed symptoms that could have seen them pick up her metastatic papillary thyroid carcinoma, a rare form of thyroid cancer.
After struggling through the first year of her degree, she was finally diagnosed correctly two years ago after a huge lump the “size of a golf ball” grew on her neck.
Cerys, now 22, has since had two major surgeries to remove her lump and the whole thyroid gland and all the lymph nodes on the left-hand side of her neck.
She is only now on the path to making a full recovery.
And since her life saving operation, Cerys has also made it her mission to get her fitness back and is taking it one step further by training to become a Les Mills body attack instructor.
She said: “I was studying in sixth form when I first decided to start my weight loss journey. At my heaviest I weighed 18 stone.
“I started to exercise more regularly, and my diet improved but the weight continued to fall off.
“I’d always maintained a healthy diet throughout my life even before I decided I wanted to lose the weight and so when I started to lose the weight so dramatically, it was a shock and I didn’t know what was happening.
“I had dropped a lot of weight in a little amount of time. It was noticeable by everyone around me including my teachers at school who expressed their concerns.
“My mum wasn’t sure what was going on either and often questioned how I was feeling and my energy. I would say I felt fine, but was experiencing a lot of fatigue – which I put down to a busy day at school and exam stress. etc – and I was cold all the time. I had difficulty sleeping and would wake up several times during the night.
“This continued up to the point I went to my doctor who asked me lots of questions about my lifestyle and diet and seemed to miss my other symptoms, which is where the mistake was made.
“The doctor suggested I try and eat more and wear more layers and make sure I get enough sleep and water, they suggested that I was always cold because I’d lost a lot of weight very quickly.”
Following the meeting Cerys continued doing what she was doing and tried to eat more, sleep more and relax more.
Cerys, originally from Wales, currently lives in Exeter, Devon, with her boyfriend and works part-time as a brand ambassador for Nespresso.
She is in her second year at university studying psychology and said it was when she started at university her symptoms got a lot worse.
She recalled: “I was so cold I couldn’t leave my room, I would sit next to the heater all wrapped up just trying to keep warm.
“I still continued to try and eat plenty. I often had huge portions of pasta for lunch and dinner along with lean meats and vegetables. My social life took a hit because I could no longer go out to parties, I was just too cold, and I couldn’t go to any socials.
“Even with difficulty sleeping I managed to get through the first year and made it through the two exam seasons, it was a great struggle, luckily all of my lectures were recorded so I could watch them from my warm room.
“I attempted to seek help from university health centre who had access to my note history and again missed the real symptoms.
“The doctor couldn’t make any suggestions and just said to keep practicing my sleep routine I had been given and to make sure I was eating enough and not getting too stressed. This advice made no difference.”
Cerys met her boyfriend James, who was studying at college, and was managing and coping with her symptoms. Then around April she noticed a lump. When it changed shape she went to a walk-in centre and was referred to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.
Her first op to remove the lump for examination was in May 2015. When they finally found the cancer she had 1.5cm worth of cancerous tissue in her thyroid.
Her life saving and life changing surgery took place in July 2015, and she had to take six months off work to recover.
Initially her weight dropped down to 62kg (9 Stone, 7lbs) and she initially battled post diagnosis issues such as depression, anxiety and fatigue.
Cerys added: “After the surgery I was very weak, and I lost huge amounts of strength and muscle mass.
“My journey back into my gym and fitness routine was slow, at the start I could only manage five minutes walking on a treadmill.”
Cerys is now two years post-surgery and is looking forward to what she hopes she will be a healthy and fulfilling life.
She added: “I’m now at a point in my life where I can say I’m recovered. I’m stronger, more confident and more able to take on life’s challenges.
“I currently weigh in at around 79/80kg and I’m focusing on building muscle mass and building on my physical and mental strength.
Cerys has already completed several half marathons and raised more than £2000 for the CLIC Sargent charity which supported her.
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