cancer · depression · mental health · rehab

Carrie, vet-nurse and traveller

I’ve got a few regrettable tattoos from when I was much younger, but the first one that had any actual meaning, the one that everybody comments on, is based on the design from a book called The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy, which has the poem Voodoo girl.

..she knows she has a curse on her,
a curse she cannot win.
For if someone gets
too close to her,
the pins stick farther in.”
― Tim Burton

It resonated with me at twenty-one and does even now, because I struggle to be open. I’m very insecure and find it hard to get close to people. I put walls up so people don’t think I’m weak. I struggle to make connections with people and when I do, I’m good at bodging it.

I grew up feeling like an outsider; I was very reserved. I found school difficult. I was called a swot but I don’t know why; I don’t think I’m that clever. I was just not a popular child. If you don’t have what they’d consider a normal family type, you don’t necessarily feel judged but it feels quite awkward.

Deep down I am insecure – things happened in my life and I was bullied. You isolate yourself. I don’t talk about things to people and I don’t think that’s ever gone in my favour. I’ve been shutting myself off for twenty years. I’m still a little bit of a lost soul.

Carrie in the Galapagos


I’m not good at asking for help. You experience guilt. You think your problems are a little bit insignificant; you’re being really silly. If someone else was going through things, you would be offering them advice and you would be there supporting them. I feel that I’m quite an important person where support for other people is concerned, but I find it hard to accept support for myself.

Some people are open and will listen and will support you when you talk. Other people shut off a little bit. They think you expect something from them, but you don’t want them to fix you. A lot of people, because they don’t understand it, find it easier to shut you out.

I’ve been through therapy a lot of times and doctors do throw drugs at you, hoping for the best. Then they say ‘that’s not working. Let’s try a different one,’ instead of referring you. It has caused erratic behaviour in the past. You get bitter about it, I guess. There are times I feel I’ve been failed.

For example, I never had a formal diagnosis until the last few years, which is quite scary. It’s not that you want to label yourself; it’s not about that. But if you don’t know what’s wrong with you, you don’t know what to call it. You can’t explain it to people.

I’ve got Recurrent Depressive Disorder with anxiety and Avoidance Personally Disorder. They don’t tell you this as such, but you get a letter with a report and you see it on there. You want to say to your doctor, ‘Do you want to talk to me about that cos I don’t know what it means?’ You end up jumping on Google and you’re like, ‘Oh! OK. I identify with some of these things.

It does stop me from doing things. When I’ve had a bad day, some of my coping mechanisms are fine, but sometimes I go into hibernation. You do reflect back and think ‘How much of life have I missed out on?’ but other times I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved. I qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2012. I’m good at my job. I’ve also taken myself off travelling. I’ve discovered some amazing countries by myself.

Carrie in India

Travel’s a wonderful thing. Going to a new place and absorbing the culture. Spending time with people who are local and learning their stories and immersing yourself in it. You find people who make you tick and make you happy. My therapist said, ‘You’re like a whole different person when you talk about those experiences.’ It really hurts me that I can’t travel at the moment.

I find comfort in food. Eating it, cooking it, that is one of my de-stress points. I’m pretty shit-hot in the kitchen.

In roughly 2018, I started to notice a growth on the right side of my thyroid (I’d already had the left lobe removed because it was multinodular). The surgery got postponed due to Covid; I eventually had it in December 2020. In February, they were like, ‘OK I’ve had your path notes back and you have thyroid cancer.’

It’s not one of the big, bad cancers but it’s not nice to hear. It’s been sat there and you don’t know how long it’s been sat there for. You’re trying to get your head around that.

In China

 They’d taken the lump but they recommended I went for radioactive Iodine as a safety measure because there may be remnant cells. That was in March. You have to have an Iodine restricted diet beforehand so they know the radioactivity’s not clinging to anything in your gut. You have the treatment and sit in a room and they check you with a Geiger counter. When you get to a level they’re happy with, you can go home, but you can’t go near children or anything. After that, you go for a scan to see what the update of radioactive Iodine was. They don’t show you the scan, but I like to think my thyroid gland was glowing.

The hard thing for me is what it does to you psychologically. The isolation. You have your surgery. You sit at home on your own not seeing anyone. I hadn’t identified as having SAD before but suddenly I realised it affected me more than I’d given myself credit for.

I’m not saying I don’t have support, but I’ve pulled myself through this. Trying to find where to focus is important. I don’t always give myself enough credit to recognise what my good coping strategies are. I tend to focus on the negative ones.

I’d lived in Chesterfield all my life, but I moved to the Isle of Mann last Summer. I’m not going to lie; I knew the Isle of Man existed but didn’t know anything about it. Someone contacted me and said ‘Your skill-set matches what we need.’ It’s a very small practise and I’m the Head Nurse.

I’ve landed up in a beautiful little village, overlooking a harbour which is really cute. The sea is literally a few hundred yards from my home, which was a big selling point; I’ve always found the sea to be calming. It is isolated, which has hit home this winter – it’s bleak in England sometimes but it’s really bloody bleak here. You’re coming to work in the dark; coming home in the dark. But if I am a bit crap, I just walk a few miles and I’ve got the sea view in front of me. For me, the sea is a really calming thing.


In Cambodia