Internet Laryngectomee Support
Jane Del Vecchio
“Delegates at the 1998 IAL Annual Meeting conferred on Jane Del Vecchio the designation of Honorary Life Member. This award recognizes her as one of the most significant influences in the history of the IAL. It is hard to imagine anyone having done more for the IAL.” (IAL News, September, 1998)
Jane was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Virginia, and lived and worked in North Carolina before moving to Atlanta, Georgia in 1959. A graduate of the National Business College in Roanoke, Virginia, she worked for twenty years in the insurance business there and in North Carolina. After arriving in Atlanta she spent the 1960s enjoying family, traveling, and working with the Italian Cultural Society in which she served as president. It was through the Italian Cultural Society that she became involved with the Southern Regional Opera group. She and her husband, Bob, helped the opera company with their production of the favorites, Carmen, La Boheme, and La Traviata. While preparing for a fundraising project she noticed she was developing a problem with her voice.
The biopsy was positive. Thirty radiation treatments were unsuccessful, and a laryngectomy was performed in April 1973. She did not make a sound for eleven months. The reason is that she had developed five fistulas and was discouraged from using an electrolarynx as they healed. When she began to speak again she joined the Laryngectomee Planning Group sponsored by the American Cancer Society in Atlanta.
She later suggested the name “Greater Atlanta Voice Masters” for the group, and "Happy Talk" for the newsletter. She has edited Happy Talk from the beginning, maintains the loaner closet and has served in every office within GAVM.
“If it had not been for her, I would not be the person I am today. She showed me how to live life to the fullest and never look back.”
“She was my visitor in 1989 after my operation. Not only did she help me, but she inspired me to be the best I can and to help others.”
She has spoken to tens of thousands of people on tobacco education. Even a recurrence of cancer for which she received both chemo therapy and radiation would not stop her from lobbying the Governor of Georgia to seek part of the money from the tobacco company settlement in order to help laryngectomees and other victims of tobacco-related illnesses.
“I remember the first time I saw her like it was yesterday. I was scared about what it was gonna be like for me when I got out of the hospital. Was I going to be able to talk? Would I be able to function more or less again like before? And then Jane came bouncing and smiling in my room a few days before I was scheduled to leave. She was so plumb full of energy and just exuded confidence and the joy of living. I just thought to myself right then that everything was gonna be all right."
Jane has one son and three grandchildren who live in North Carolina and Virginia.
“You know Jane is a little tiny lady, but she certainly does really big things for lots of people. She surely did for me.”
“She is the most remarkable person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”
(Thanks to Paul Daniels, Keith Fitzgerald, Jewell Fuller, Janice Hayes, Jerry Hough, Joe Johnson, Rita Kinney, Wilda Provost, and Linda Williams for their help.)
Jack Henshaw becomes Vet Rep
WebWhispers member Jack Henshaw (a.k.a. TunnelRat8@aol.com) finished first in his class in the first ever graduating class of the National Veterans Organization of America for accrediting Veterans' Service Officers. Jack was the only laryngectomee in his class and may be the only lary V.S.O. in the nation. This training and certification allows him to represent veterans in appeal proceedings before the Veterans Administration. Jack is a Life Member of the N.V.O.A. and is its National Legislative Director. Congratulations Jack. Semper Fidelis.
The following is the first in an occasional series which seeks to provide basic information of potential value to new laryngectomees and those who help to keep them informed.
The story is all too familiar to many of us. A laryngectomee faces an emergency medical situation and an EMT or other health professional puts an oxygen mask over his or her nose and mouth. Unless a caregiver intervenes or the mistake is otherwise discovered, the consequences can be serious.
Laryngectomees can decrease the likelihood of this occurring if they wear a medic alert-type bracelet or necklace. These bracelets and necklaces are available from a number of sources including jewelry stores, and can be ordered through many pharmacies. They vary in cost from $10 for a simple stainless steel one to several hundred dollars for one in gold.
According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers and accounts for about half of all cancer cases in the United States.
The number of cases has continued to rise each year. Dr. Frank Flowers of the University of Florida College of Medicine said, “We are in the midst of a skin cancer epidemic.
Five years ago the National Institutes of Health predicted there would be around 600,000 new cases of skin cancer.
It is closer to 1.2 million new cases.” But skin cancer is also among the most preventable, and there are several steps all of us should take to reduce our risk of developing it.
There are a number of risk factors associated with developing skin cancer. Laryngectomees who have been exposed to radiation over significant portions of their necks and shoulder areas are at greater risk. Males are twice as likely to get skin cancer, and fair skin and anything including chemotherapy which compromises the immune system is also linked to increased risk.
But the vast majority of non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by unprotected exposure to the sun. According to the ACS, 80% of skin cancers could be prevented by protecting ourselves from the sun's rays. And, despite the fact that the vast majority of skin damage done occurs to most of us during our first 18 years of life, it is never too late to reduce further damage.
It is especially important that children be protected, so this is an issue about which we can educate our children or grandchildren. However, sunscreen is not recommended for children under 6 months of age.
Dermatologists are virtually unanimous in recommending that people not go out into the sun for the purpose of getting a suntan. A suntan is merely the body's attempt to protect itself from damaging UV rays. Recent research has also indicated that the use of sun lamps and tanning booths is also associated with an increase in skin cancer.
There are three approaches to protecting yourself from over-exposure to the sun. They are listed in order of the most effective to the least effective.
The most effective is to avoid exposure to the sun in the first place. Avoiding the sun during the peak ultraviolet radiation hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is especially helpful. It is also important to remember that sunlight can be reflected off water, sand, concrete and snow; and even penetrate water for several feet. UV rays can also penetrate clouds, so don't mistake the cooler air temperature created by cloudiness for significantly reduced radiation.
You can also avoid exposure with clothing. Long sleeved shirts and long pants made of tightly woven fabrics which you can't see through work best. A broad brimmed hat which shades your ears, nose and neck is a good idea. You can also protect your eyes and the skin around them by wearing UV protective sunglasses with a 99-100% UV absorption rating.
|Linda Caraway (Caregiver)
College Station, TX
Dawson City, Yukon, Canada
Carolyn Gartner - SLP
New York City, NY
Fort Myers, FL
Hiedi Hinds (Caregiver)
Sale, Victoria, Australia
Las Vegas, NV
Luminaud, Inc., Mentor, OH
Marylú Villanueva (Caregiver)
Mexico City, Mexico