A student says she nearly died after doctors wrongly diagnosed her cancer – as an EATING disorder.
Cerys Head, 20, went from a 22 dress size down to a size 10 after losing eight stone in a year.
She sought medical help at the age of 16, only to be told she had developed an eating disorder.
But doctors had missed the real cause of her dramatic weight loss – metastatic thyroid carcinoma, a rare thyroid cancer.
After struggling through the first year of her degree, she was finally diagnosed correctly last year after a huge lump the “size of a golf ball” grew on her neck.
Cerys has since had major surgery to remove her cancer – which she says left her ‘looking like Frankenstein’ – but has issued a warning about her illness and symptoms, which she said was difficult to diagnose among young people.
She said: “When I was 15 I started a weight loss journey to lose a bit of weight, but then I started losing so much weight, I went from 18 stone down to 10.
“My mum started to worry about me because of how much weight I had lost and that is when I went to the doctors, only to be told that they thought I had an eating disorder.
“I visited the doctors four or five times because I started feeling cold and fatigued all the time but every time they gave me the same response.”
Cerys moved from her home in Wales to begin a degree at Exeter University in 2014 and struggled through her first year.
She said: “The first year of university was difficult for me because I didn’t realise how ill I was at the time.
“The winter was when my symptoms got worse and I couldn’t go to lectures because I was wrapped in lots of layers at home. It was awful because I just couldn’t get warm and I got behind with my work.”
The Clinical Psychology student went to visit the doctors at Exeter University after she continued to feel poorly.
After having blood tests Cerys said that she then started to develop lumps on her neck which she assumed were swollen glands.
She added: “I had blood tests taken at the time and I went days without sleeping, but when my results came back normal and they said they couldn’t see anything wrong.
“I discovered lumps on my neck and I left it three months before I went back to the doctor which was a big mistake.
“All of a sudden a lump on my neck got as big as a golf ball, so I asked my boyfriend and his mum to look at it and that is when I decided enough I needed to do something.”
The student decided to go to the walk-in centre on Sidwell Street after discovering that the lump on her neck had got bigger and she was finally diagnosed in June last year.
After having the lump examined by a nurse Cerys then got referred to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, where she received a biopsy four weeks later.
She said: “At the walk-in centre the nurse examined the lump and instantly referred me to a doctor in St Thomas and at the time I still thought that it was a swollen gland.
“When I got referred to the hospital that is when the penny dropped that it was something more serious.
“I was in shock I don’t think I realised what was going on at first and then it suddenly hit me.
“Thyroid cancer can be missed so easily because it is not so common in young people.
“I think that I went through all of the motions after the recovery and because it all happened so quickly I didn’t have time to think.”
Since her operation Cerys has made it her mission to get her fitness back and to raise money for the charity Clic Sergeant that helped her through her illness.
She added: “Since the operation I have had a scan and the doctors were pleased because there were no abnormalities, so I am out of the danger zone.”