Mum’s ‘unquenchable thirst’ turned out to be cancer symptom

Esther Shoebridge, 59, was diagnosed with myeloma, a type of blood cancer, after she had months of 'baffling symptoms' including unquenchable thirst and numbness. (Myeloma UK/SWNS)
Esther Shoebridge, 59, was diagnosed with myeloma, a type of blood cancer, after she had months of 'baffling symptoms'. (Myeloma UK/SWNS)

A woman who experienced unusual symptoms including an uncontrollable thirst was shocked to learn it was actually a sign of something serious.

Around five months after experiencing the "baffling symptoms", which also included numbness and neck pain, Esther Shoebridge, 59, from Beverley, East Yorkshire was told by doctors she had "millions of holes" and tumours in her body.

She was diagnosed with myeloma, a type of blood cancer, and doctors revealed she may only have five years left to live.

"When the consultant told me, about the holes in my spine, neck and skull, I burst into tears," she says of the moment.

"All I could think was that my skull had millions of holes in it and was going to collapse into my head.

"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 vertebra."

Esther Shoebridge pictured with her husband Philip. (Myeloma UK/SWNS)
Esther Shoebridge pictured with her husband Philip. (Myeloma UK/SWNS)

The former optician first knew something was wrong in October 2020, when she was drinking around four litres of water a day but was still feeling thirsty.

"I was thirsty every single minute, despite drinking so much water," she explains.

"It was completely out of the blue."

Around two months later, she describes feeling like she had cricked her neck. She didn't know it at the time but two tumours were actually pressing against her C3 vertebra which had caused her neck to snap.

"I couldn’t lift a thing," she explains. "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.

"I started holding my neck up almost all of the time or going to lay down to rest it.

"I went to the GP twice and they just gave me painkillers."

In January 2021, Shoebridge was rushed to A&E after her face went numb and she lost sensation in her skin.

She was diagnosed with myeloma a month later.

Shoebridge wearing a neck brace. (Myeloma UK/SWNS)
Shoebridge wearing a neck brace. (Myeloma UK/SWNS)

The mum and grandmother had chemotherapy straight after her diagnosis but the treatment didn’t work as well as expected and her cancer has returned twice over the last three years.

Although she was initially told she may have just five years left to live, she's refusing to accept her prognosis as she believes there will be a cure for myeloma soon.

"I don’t just think, I know, there will be a cure," she says.

"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."

Esther Shoebridge  with her grandchildren Lula, Oxford and Espen. (Myeloma UK/SWNS)
Esther Shoebridge with her grandchildren Lula, Oxford and Espen. (Myeloma UK/SWNS)

Dr Sophie Castell, chief executive at Myeloma UK, says that people who having myeloma symptoms need help to "catch the disease earlier".

"Every day counts while you’re waiting for a diagnosis, and yet a third of patients visit their GP at least three times before being diagnosed," she says.

"One of the biggest barriers remains identifying the symptoms quickly and before too much damage is done.

"People with myeloma can’t wait.

"We need your help to spread the word about myeloma so we can catch the disease earlier."

Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a blood cancer arising from plasma cells.

Myeloma UK estimates that approximately 5,900 people are diagnosed with myeloma each year and at any one time there are around 24,000 people living with myeloma in the UK.

The condition accounts for 15% of blood cancers, and 2% of all cancers.

While it mainly affects those over the age of 65, people much younger have also been diagnosed.

The most common symptoms of myeloma include bone pain, recurring infection, kidney damage and fatigue.

Myeloma UK says treatment for myeloma can be very effective at controlling the disease, relieving its symptoms and complications, and prolonging life. Unfortunately, however, myeloma is currently an incurable cancer.

Additional reporting SWNS.