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This hockey player found a lump on her neck. Her teammates convinced her to get it checked out

Maggie Mitani was just 18 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, after her teammates on the University of Windsor women's hockey team insisted she get a lump on her neck checked out.  (Meg Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Maggie Mitani was just 18 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, after her teammates on the University of Windsor women's hockey team insisted she get a lump on her neck checked out. (Meg Roberts/CBC - image credit)

Maggie Mitani was a brand new member of the University of Windsor women's hockey team when, in February 2023, she felt a slight lump on her neck.

She wasn't worried and initially brushed off getting it checked out.

But with her teammates' insistence that she go to the doctor, Mitani's lump was eventually diagnosed as thyroid cancer.

"I was sitting in my dressing room and ... I felt like a little ball [on my neck] ... We're all kind of like, whatever, doesn't matter," she told CBC News.

"A few days later one of my friends came up to me and she's like, 'hey, I think it's really weird.'"

Maggie Mitani, left and Holly Borett, right. Mitani was successfully treated for thyroid cancer last year after she spotted a lump on her neck, one that Borrett pushed her to get checked out.
Maggie Mitani, left and Holly Borett, right. Mitani was successfully treated for thyroid cancer last year after she spotted a lump on her neck, one that Borrett pushed her to get checked out.

Maggie Mitani, left and Holly Borett, right. Mitani was successfully treated for thyroid cancer last year after she spotted a lump on her neck, one that Borrett pushed her to get checked out. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Her advice to other young women who might be in the same situation? Get it checked out anyway.

Mitani says she was healthy, in her first year of playing hockey on the Lancers women's hockey team. By February, she and her new teammates were already close. When she felt the lump, they were joking around and Mitani says she figured it would go away.

But teammate Holly Borrett says she knew it was something worth pushing Mitani to get checked out by a professional.

"I asked her a few days later, 'hey, did you go to the doctor's yet?'," Borrett said, and she pushed back when Mitani told her she hadn't.

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Borrett says she was shocked to learn the inconspicuous lump was cancer.

"It's kind of weird to think that if I didn't say that, how things would have turned out," Borrett said.

"My biggest advice would probably just be like if you're ever unsure of anything, just go get it checked out. There's no harm in going to see the doctor."

Mitani, who is from Winnipeg, says she got the call from her doctor after some ultrasounds and a biopsy and had surgery last June.

Mitani says being young and an athlete made it hard to accept the reality of cancer.

"I was 18 at the time. I was healthy… I worked out every day," Mitani said. "It wasn't anything that I did specifically, which was really hard for me to grasp."

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After her recovery, Mitani hit the ice strong this season, playing defence. It's a thing the team jokes about now: how they found Mitani's cancer and should try going to medical school.

But she has advice for anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation, wondering if they should even bother getting something small checked out.

"It just shows how important the people around you really are," she said. "Having those girls, really, without that I might have never been diagnosed, maybe.

"If you go to the doctor and they say, 'nope, nothing's wrong,' then perfect, at least you got checked out. But if you go and there is something serious ... then you need some help."