“I was 41 years old, had always been healthy, eaten healthily, never smoked and had no family history of cancer,” said Elsa Gavriil, from Hackney, London.
The executive assistant in a tech company first developed an odd cough in January 2022, and then her eyelid drooped.
“I was really struggling after a month to just hold my eyes open,” Elsa remembered.
“It was a really weird thing. I was struggling with the sun and lights in the office.”
Elsa said the ordeal was “quite difficult” to deal with as she felt as if her face was “melting”.
A neurologist diagnosed Elsa with myasthenia gravis, a rare autoimmune condition, but more news was to come.
The NHS says myasthenia gravis causes muscle weakness, which can lead to:
- Droopy eyelids
- Double vision
- Difficulty making facial expressions
- Problems chewing and difficulty swallowing
- Slurred speech
- Weak arms, legs or neck
- Shortness of breath.
Following a CT scan, Elsa was also diagnosed with thymus gland cancer – a 4cm tumour had been found between her lungs and behind her sternum.
“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, external life kind of stops,” Elsa shared.
“I remember vividly receiving the news and the feeling that a dark cloud had engulfed me. It took me 24 hours to even utter the word ‘cancer’.”
While the tumour could have been in Elsa’s body for years, the cancer was slow-growing and had only reached stage one.
Surgeons were able to remove the tumour without Elsa needing to have chemotherapy or further treatment.
“As far as the cancer is concerned, it has been successfully treated and I am able to live a full, happy and good life,” Elsa said.
She added: “Also, I want to tell people if something doesn’t feel right just have it checked.
“Most of the time it will be nothing but if it is something it’s just so much better to know in advance.”
Elsa said: “Cancer Research UK, I find, is so helpful and keeps me full of hope about all the discoveries and research that has been going [on].”
Elsa is now supporting Cancer Research UK’s new fundraising and awareness campaign Together We Are Beating Cancer.