Yorkshire gran sent away with painkillers for 'cricked neck' gets devastating diagnosis months later

Esther Shoebridge with her grandchildren Lula, Oxford and Espen
-Credit: (Image: Myeloma UK)

A Yorkshire gran was told she had 'millions of holes' in her spine, neck and skull after her incurable blood cancer was missed for five months.

Esther Shoebridge, from Beverley, was diagnosed with myeloma in February 2021, after months of baffling symptoms including unquenchable thirst, numbness and neck pain.

By the time her incurable cancer was caught, she had also lost two stone. Esther said: “When the consultant told me, ‘You have millions of holes in your spine, neck and skull’, I burst into tears. All I could think was that my skull had millions of holes in it and was going to collapse into my head. I had had symptoms for months.

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"I was constantly trying to hold my neck up and I even bought myself a neck brace. I had no idea my neck was actually broken and that two small tumours had blasted their way through my C3."

Esther knew something was wrong when, out of blue in October 2020, she started feeling extremely thirsty. She’d drink as much as 4L a day but nothing could quench her thirst. Before long she began noticing more worrying symptoms.

Esther Shoebridge during treatment
Esther Shoebridge during treatment -Credit:Myeloma UK

“I was thirsty every single minute,” recalled Esther, a former optician. “I was drinking 4L of water of day. It was completely out of the blue. Then I couldn’t lift a thing. I couldn’t even lift my own kettle. I used to go to the gym and be very fit – it was really strange. I also started losing weight.”

Things came to a head around Christmas time in 2020 when Esther felt she “had cricked” her neck. Little did she know that two tumours were pressing against her C3 vertebra and had caused her neck to snap.

"I started holding my neck up almost all of the time or going to lay down to rest it,” added the 59-year-old. “I went to the GP twice and they just gave me painkillers.”

Things quickly escalated in January 2021. She started vomiting. Her face went numb and she lost sensation in her skin. She visited her GP and was rushed to A&E.

Esther Shoebridge with her husband Philip
Esther Shoebridge with her husband Philip -Credit:Myeloma UK

“I would pinch my skin and not feel anything – they took notice then,” said Esther, who has a daughter and two stepsons. Esther was diagnosed with myeloma in February, five months after first experiencing symptoms.

She ended up wearing a neck brace for eight months. She had to move back in with her parents for six months as she embarked on the long journey to recovery. Her husband Philip sold their house and bought a new home closer to the hospital to accommodate Esther’s condition.

“I was so frightened,” she said. “They gave me five years" She received chemotherapy straight away. Sadly, the treatment didn’t work as well as expected and her cancer has returned twice over the last three years. Her myeloma is currently stable.

Ever the optimist, she is determined to push on, make each day count and spend as much time as possible with her four grandchildren Lula, Oxford, Espen and Stormi.

Esther Shoebridge
Esther Shoebridge -Credit:Myeloma UK

“I don’t just think, I know, there will be a cure,” she said. “They told me I would last till 2026, but the cancer doesn’t know who it’s dealing with. I’m not accepting that. I’m small but I’m tough. I go out and walk whatever the weather and, yes, my back aches but I keep fighting, I’ve got to. I’m not taking any notice of how long they told me I’ll live. I have lots still to do and too much fun to have with my husband, family, bestie and friends.”

For more information about myeloma, you can access Myeloma UK.

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