Two sisters who endured gruelling battles with the same form of cancer just months apart are now in remission.
Dee Paul, 27 and her younger sister Kiran Sangha, 24, were both diagnosed with thyroid cancer after finding lumps on their necks.
Both were given radioactive iodine treatment and were kept in isolation for weeks until they posed no harm to their loved ones.
During the process, Dee had to be kept apart from her one-year-old daughter in a period which she describes as the ‘longest days of my life’.
Since being told they are in remission, the pair have joked that Kiran is just desperate to copy whatever her big sister does.
Both thyroid cancers were different forms, so medics explained that the fact they were both diagnosed was not genetic but just a cruel coincidence.
Dee Paul (right), 27 and her younger sister Kiran Sangha (left), 24, were both diagnosed with thyroid cancer after finding lumps on their necks
Dee said: ‘I tried to make light of it – Kiran always wanted to be like me and here she was copying me again!
‘But it was a huge shock to us all, particularly our parents.’
Kissing cancer goodbye
Kiran added: ‘My big sister really helped me through my treatment because she knew exactly what I was going through.
‘We consider ourselves really lucky to have survived and we are so glad to kiss cancer goodbye.’
Dee, from Castle Bromwich, West Midlands, first discovered a lump on her neck when she was pregnant with daughter Dhiya.
When the swelling hadn’t gone down after her baby was born, she went to see her GP.
Part of her thyroid was removed as a precaution at Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, but tests showed the tissue was cancerous.
More surgery followed and, more than a year since she first noticed the lump, Dee began treatment with radioactive iodine.
Dee (left) and Kiran (right) were given radioactive iodine treatment and were kept in isolation for weeks until they posed no harm to their loved ones
The process meant that Dhiya and husband Jatinder could not go near her.
‘I was in total isolation’
She said: ‘Basically, I was radioactive so Dhiya had to go and stay with my mum. It was really distressing – I just cried all the way to the hospital.
‘For the first two days I was in total isolation. The nurses just pushed a plate of food through the door because I couldn’t have any human contact.
I tried to make light of it – Kiran always wanted to be like me and here she was copying me again!
‘They were the longest days of my life.’
Dee began feeling better and was looking forward to her brother’s wedding when Kiran, then aged 22, began to feel unwell.
Kiran had also developed a lump in her neck and felt so ill at the wedding that she went to the GP immediately afterwards.
She was referred straight to hospital where she had a biopsy.
Being told the devastating news
Kiran said: ‘The doctor didn’t tell me I had cancer, he just said, “You’ve got the same as your sister”.
‘My head was spinning. They offered me tissues but I couldn’t cry, I just kept thinking “How am I going to tell my mum and dad?”‘
Since being told they are in remission, the pair have joked that Kiran is just desperate to copy whatever her big sister does
During the process, Dee had to be kept apart from her one-year-old daughter in a period which she describes as the ‘longest days of my life’
WHAT IS THYROID CANCER?
Thyroid cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, a small gland at the base of the neck that produces hormones.
Women are two to three times more likely to develop it than men.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer can include:
- a painless lump or swelling in the front of the neck
- swollen glands in the neck
- unexplained hoarseness that doesn’t get better after a few weeks
- a sore throat that doesn’t get better
- difficulty swallowing
Around 9 in every 10 people are alive five years after diagnosis. Many of these are cured and will have a normal lifespan.
Source: NHS Choices
Kiran, who lives in Penkridge, Staffordshire, with her parents, said the second diagnosis hit the whole family extremely hard.
Both cancers were different types, so medics explained that the fact they were both diagnosed was not genetic but just a cruel coincidence.
Kiran underwent the iodine treatment, as well as surgery to remove her whole thyroid and some of her lymph nodes at New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton.
Both sisters were diagnosed early enough for their cancer to be treated effectively and scans show Dee and Kiran are now in remission.
Backing life-saving research
Now the sisters are backing Stand Up To Cancer, an annual fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4.
Since it was launched in the UK in 2012, Stand Up To Cancer has raised over £38 million to fund over 40 clinical trials and research projects.
Kiran said: ‘Research saves lives and we want everyone to know it. That’s why we’re giving our heartfelt support to Stand Up To Cancer.
‘It raises money to speed up more effective treatments for people, like us, who really need it.’