My operation was February 2012. Chemo and radiotherapy was tough, but when I got my speech valve, things started to look better. However I was very conscious about the way I sounded.
I avoided using the phone, as most people assumed I was a man, or they couldn’t understand me at all. In the end I pretty much stopped using it. In fact, I avoided speaking to anyone even face to face, because I got fed up of repeating myself. So, even though I’d got a voice back, I wasn’t confident using it, & it was hard work.
Thanks to Shout at Cancer I have learnt so much about the voice. As Laryngectomees (and I hate that word), I think its incredible that we can talk at all. But, it can be improved on. The voice rehabilitation sessions have taught me how to breathe differently, in the way that a singer would, to get much more control. We use different techniques with the vowels and consonants to get more intonation in the voice. I have to tell you, I have been asked to Moo, Meeow, and ee-aw in the sessions (very funny), but it works.
I used to love to sing, and I never thought it would be possible, but I did sing We Are The Champions by Queen in front of them all. Not sure it was great pitch wise, but I did it. By breathing differently, being aware of my diaphragm, I have so much more control over my voice. I can shout, I feel more confident on the phone. I can read a poem with the right intonation. I can talk to my daughter properly and read her a book, and everyone I know has commented on how much clearer my voice is.
Our sessions have improved the range and quality of my voice, but most of all they have given me a sense of self belief.
I no longer avoid making phone calls and I am very much more confident in my day to day transactions. I have also learned that it is OK to let people know I need a pause when it is necessary.
Since I started the sessions in April 2014 I have been on national live radio and I am teaching myself Spanish. I seem to be making myself understood!
The camaraderie between tutors and fellow group members has inspired me to keep going.
Being part of the group has enabled me to interact more normally with my family especally my grandchildren and in society in a day to day basis.
This is maninly due to the breathing teqniques that enable me to hold a sentance longer and to adjust the pitch and tone of the voice to show feelings and expression.
Some of the things being in group has done for me:
My wife no longer thinks I am aggressive all the time. And I have no trouble with people understanding me on the phone anymore because I can rise the pitch and tone and loudness of my voice.
Changed my life 100 %+
Jean Cooper at the Belgian Embassy, London,
5th July 2016