Kirklin Clinic Head & Neck Cancer Support,  Birmingham, AL
Pat Sanders, Editor. 
Distributed by American Cancer Society
December 2006



Dutch Helms



Afew things about Dutch and Acomplishments...

from Debi Austin


On November 1, 2006, we lost a great man as Dutch Helms quietly passed from a recurrence of cancer.   The following was sent to me on the evening before:


Every now and then we print such things as "We are all different."  Do you think?  Sometimes we forget what that means.  Or do we simply say the words to be polite when challenged.  The fact is what we experience is different.  We are not the same color, size, shape, heritage, or history and our thought process will never be the same.  I have no idea what someone that had to have chemo for throat cancer has physically gone through.  I get snippets of how difficult and terrifying it must have been for them when they write about it.  But I cannot for a moment put myself in their place.


My first encounter with a Speech Therapist was so sub-standard that I sent her a bill for wasting my time and took it all the way to Blue Cross.  I did not meet what I was led to expect of a Speech Therapist until I attended a CAL Conference 10 months post op.  At that point I felt like I had the opportunity of meeting the "greats"  and getting some real education.


I am not sure what Dutch had in mind when he put his plan in motion.  Mostly, I think he wanted people to be able to find peace, comfort, and answers.  Wow, mission accomplished and, oh, so much more!  I think the process of finding this place, called WebWhispers, created a multi-diverse force of "accidental" educators.  If occupation was listed on the member roster I am pretty sure we would cover all the bases from A to Z.


How many of us taught before becoming laryngectomees?  And yet now we have many on this list that teach us medical advocacy, the transition to a different way of living and alternative speech.  Even the educators on the list have expanded their fields to cover "differences."  We are great!  We have met, we have joined forces in learning and teaching, in giving and taking, and making it work best for individuals.  We have truly learned to play with other children.  We have conquered.


Perhaps Dutch was well aware of what he was creating when he guided and nudged us to step up to the plate even when we were not sure of that plate ourselves.  He taught us to help without judgment, to except a multitude of differences.  He proved to us that many of our limits were our own.  Now he is teaching us to say good bye, to let go, but more importantly to carry on.  He taught us to love life in such a way that we will carry on.


Not always in life do we get the opportunity to meet admirable people.  Dutch is an admirable man.  He certainly let his life speak!


Just my thought,


More on Dutch Helms on WebWhispers


http://webwhispers.org/  Under the About Us section, there is a special part for our Founder and  links to other pages of interest.


by Bob Power


Our home sits on the side of a rather steep canyon, with a small stream at the bottom. The other side is quite high above us so we have no back yard or back neighbors. We like that part.


The canyon is wild, with wild things in it; deer, raccoon, possum, rattlesnakes, and coyotes among other critters. It’s really no place for a cat, maybe a mountain lion (they’re not far away) but certainly not for your usual tabby.


Joan and I have always been ruled by cats, sometimes three at a time, but when our last three ended up in the canyon (we had a cat door) as coyote supper and our General Slick, the young jet black Siamese looker had to be picked up at the curb one morning, the victim of a car, we decided we just didn't have the stomach for this.


I once, some forty five years ago, had a Siamese that was an indoor cat. They were rather rare in those days, and he did not much like it, always scrambling to dart through the door to freedom. We felt guilty keeping “Louie” in, his only time out was for car rides which he dearly loved. I made up my mind to never have a totally indoor cat again.


About two years ago, one night, while couch potato-ing in our glass rooms overlooking the canyon we heard a cat down there in the blackness.


You know the yowl of a frightened lonely cat looking for a friend. Joan came in, “Did you hear that?” Yep, you couldn’t help but hear it. It was loud, lonesome, and sorrowful. We tried to ignore it. It surely was a local cat in heat and would find her way home. There was no let up. We gripped the arms of the chairs. There was no let up. Dad gummit!!


We did not have any desire for another cat. Speeding cars and coyote food in the canyon was too much to bear, and we didn’t want a total house cat either. I still didn’t like the thought of depriving such a wild wonderful creature the glory of outside adventures.


Well we couldn’t stand it anymore. Maybe this guy was hurt or needed help somehow I had to go see what was what out there.


So this potato gets up turns the side light on and goes down two flights of stairs to the back of the house, deep into the canyon. In my kimono for gosh sakes!


I arrived down there and looked around. I spotted him, he spotted me and trotted away into the darkness. He was just a shadow. I sat down and talked to him the way you do to a crying child, softly. He literally came bounding back into the circle of light where I was sitting. No wonder I couldn’t see him, he is jet black, and big. He circled me, gurgling and mumbling and getting closer. I reach out to pet him and he loved it, and began rubbing against me. I pulled him to my lap and he stayed and obviously was happy to finally have some company, and maybe a new friend.


He appeared fit and healthy so I figured he was okay and started back up the stairs, leaving him to find his way home. No. Not on your life was I getting away. He was totally underfoot, talking and chirping as a Siamese would, while I climbed the steps. He bounded in as soon as the door was open, not at all shy or afraid. Obviously he was used to being around strangers or was just relieved to get the hell out of that dark lonely canyon.


In the light I could see he was very big, turns out to be thirteen pounds, jet black short hair with big yellow green eyes. He was quite comfortable in the house and followed us up to the first floor. He was hungry and all we had was canned tuna so that’s what he got that night. We’ve since learned that tuna is not good for cats, so to his total angst, no more tuna. Anyway he took his fill and began wandering around, taking over, you could feel it in his attitude, assured, confident, don’t bug me while I’m reconnoitering this joint.


Well, as beautiful as he was, under our hazardous geography, we just did not want another pet so I picked him up, went back down the stairs and set him down on the landing outside. He looked so good I was certain he had a fine home nearby and would, on a full belly, find his way back. We went back to the couch.
Yowl! Meowwww!! Howl!!! On and on it went so back down the stairs. There he was peering through the glass door his pink tongue and yellow green eyes the only color in that beautiful black face. Beautiful! We could feel ourselves melting and our convictions of not really wanting a cat was fading fast. Oh my . . .


Well, he won, and back in he came. He shut up and began perusing his new home but would not get more than a few feet from either of us for long. Indeed, I think he did need a friend, or at least he seemed to think so.


Later we tried to find owners with no success. We weren’t sorry either. Looks like we were his new flunkies and glad to be his flunkies.


“Boss” has now totally taken over and has managed to train us to accede to his every whim. He is super spoiled and we like that too. We have a large house so he has many different territories on two floors to guard, and guard he does. I screened in a deck, high overlooking the canyon, so he can feel a part of that wild place. He enjoys it, especially when the neighbor cats are roaming out there. He runs from his veranda to all four spying places elsewhere in the house making certain those outsiders don’t get in. He’s a hoot!


We all know what knock kneed is, but this is the first time we’ve ever run across knock heeled. Boss is knock heeled! It looks so peculiar although it hinders him not at all, in fact, maybe it helps. I’ve never seen a cat jump so high with so little effort before. Anyway as he ambles slowly around the house, making certain his heels don’t click each other, he reminds us of a fashion model sashaying down the runway. His back end sways. How he manages to saunter that way and still appear so dignified is beyond me, but he does. He’s a cat.


Another thing, he never, never just walks or trots up or down the stairs, he flies, each way every time. From below he crouches, takes a great leap upward. At the same time he lets out a cat grunt deep in his throat and hits about every third stair on the way up, mumbling to himself all the way. It is so much fun. After reaching the top, he stops on a dime, sits, and begins washing some part of his anatomy, sometimes looking down as if to say “What’s keeping you?”.


He goes bouncing down, again mumbling and grumbling, the same speedy way. The funny thing about the down trip is, from the top of the stairs, the visible appearance is a black bowling ball with a pink spot on it, bouncing wildly down the stairs. At the bottom he makes a ninety degree right hand turn, without a pause, and disappears into one of the rooms, maybe not to be seen for hours. He can spy on the neighbor cats from down there. This seems to be the only way he knows how to descend and ascend a stairway. He’s a hoot.


Once he got out and I found him sniffing around and munching on blades of grass by the side of the house. Well, that sure started something I could live without now. Since he was eating grass I surmised it must be good for him or he wouldn’t do that. I began going out every afternoon and gather a few blades, he chews them out of my hand. Now it has become a demand. He knows when it’s time and begins begging, or when he hears the side door close, he knows, or when I say “Grass”, he knows and yowls and makes a pest of himself until I go get him some grass.


He waits by the glass door and watches me slipping on the hill trying not to end up on my keister picking grass, blade by blade, his green treat. When I enter the house he jumps up to grab the grass from my fingers and stays underfoot, meowing all the way going up the stairs where he crunches it to nothingness. He never throws it up as I hear many cats do. He will not let me get away without this ritual every evening.


Other than his stairway antics and grass habit he conducts himself with great aplomb as the dignified homeowner he has become. He is very cautious of all things new, and strangers, but will tolerate strangers as long as they don’t get gooey over him. If they do, down the stairs he goes. He always announces himself when entering an occupied room and usually answers when spoken to. He is sometimes skittish, frequently a couch potato, a belly rubbing lover, always super suspicious of those stupid outdoor neighbor cats, often a finicky eater, is handsome, and always loved. He is as shiny as if he was just varnished with high gloss.


So far so good, we just sit around watching him, grinning like goons, marveling at his feline beauty, every movement a symphony of grace and delicacy, a natural art. When he is out of sight, wondering where he is. On the other hand he does often talk too much and too loudly too. He does demand attention . . . and gets it.


I do believe that was the best trip down to the canyon I’ve made in the thirty two years of living here, and having in the meantime, learned the difference between the longevity of indoor cats as compared to outdoor cats, no longer feel guilty keeping him safely inside, although I would dearly love to see that miniature panther roam and hunt the canyon, it would be a sight to cherish.




(It was written in 2000 shortly after Boss came into our lives. I wanted a record of the events, hope you enjoy it.   Bob Power)


Ed. Note:  Bob Power is a laryngectomee as of 2006 and wrote for us in the September 2006 HeadLines about the loss of his house and the scare with Boss.  You will find it at:


Kirklin Clinic Head & Neck Support Group
No meetings until further notice
In the interim, we suggest that you join WebWhispers if you have an email address.
We are also invited to attend an All Cancers group with a luncheon every third Tuesday.  Call or email Pat Sanders if interested.  (See below)


HeadLines Newsletter:
B’ham:  Pat Sanders,   205-980-8416; pat@choralmusic.com
Kirklin Clinic Otolaryngology :        205-801-8456 FAX
Glenn E. Peters, M.D.       Glenn.Peters@ccc.uab.edu
William Carroll, M.D.        william.carroll@ccc.uab.edu
Nancy Lewis McColloch, Speech Pathologist ;  205-801-8460;  nlewis@uabmc.edu      

For cancer information call 800.ACS.2345 or visit our Web site at www.cancer.org
American Cancer Society in Birmingham:   nprice@cancer.org



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