Internet Laryngectomee Support
June 2000

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.

“How she found the energy to edit both Happy Talk and the IAL newsletter while actively engaging in lecturing, hospital visitations, attending both club and IAL functions, and still provide individual personal counseling to all those in need, I will never know.  She is truly one of God's angels.” 

     Jane served on the IAL Board of Directors from 1980-1989, and was IAL Secretary from 1982 until 1988.  She was elected Vice President in 1992 and President in 1994.  She authored the manual, Building a Successful Laryngectomee Club, and was editor of the IAL News from 1989 to 1998. 

“She really impressed me as a true leader and gave it her all.” 

     She wrote the IAL “Fun Show” for more than a decade and missed only one IAL convention when she was battling brain and lung cancer.  Jane is also an active volunteer for the American Cancer Society and has received honors including the J. C. Penney Award for community service and the St. George Medal, the ACS National Divisional Award.  She is an honorary Life Member of the Board of the Southeastern Division of the American Cancer Society.

“It has taken about six of us in our club, the Voice Masters of Atlanta, to keep doing everything she has done single-handedly for years.”

“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. 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.

    The bracelet pictured in the upper left is the Medic Alert bracelet.  On the back is engraved "Laryngectomee. Total Neck Breather" and any other allergies or other important medical information you request.  It also has a number which a health care professional can call to obtain additional medical information about you.  The cost is $35 for the bracelet and first year, and $15 per year as the fee to maintain your medical records.  Medic Alert, P. O. Box 819009, Turlock, CA 95381-9009, (800-432-5378.)

    The bracelet on the bottom left is the least expensive we have found.  The company also makes a necklace style for the same price.  Either can be ordered directly from the manufacturer and you can specify exactly what you want engraved on it (three lines) for $9.95.  Monroe Specialty Company, P. O. Box 77740, Monroe, WI 53566.  If you want the bracelet pictured with just the words "Neck Breather," you can order that from Luminaud for $9.00 plus shipping.  Luminaud, 8688 Tyler Blvd., Mentor, OH 44060 (800-255-3408.)

    The bracelet and necklaces pictured on the right range in price from $18.95 for the bracelet in stainless steel, to $189.98 for the larger medallion in 14K gold.  American Medical Identifications, P. O. Box 925490, Houston, TX 77292-5490, (800-363-5985.) 

    Another way to help identify yourself as a laryngectomee in an emergency situation is to carry an emergency card on your person and place one on the glass portion of your front door (if you have one), and on the side window of your automobile.

    The card on the left has specific information for laryngectomees who use the TEP prosthesis to speak.  It especially warns medical personnel not to remove the prosthesis.  The second card from the left is a general card used particularly by laryngectomees who speak using an AL (artificial larynx) or esophageal speech.  The lighter colored card provides the same information in Spanish.  The window sticker is shown on the far right.  It is resistant to fading and has an adhesive backing so it will stick to the inside of glass.

    The window sticker is available for 25 cents each from the IAL, PO Box 2664, Newport News, VA 23609-0664, (757)-888-0324.  Laryngectomee support groups should consider ordering a number of the window stickers to distribute to club members and to new laryngectomees.  The other three emergency cards also are available free of charge from the IAL, your local American Cancer Society, and several vendors.

Last Words - (Part Two)

    "What was the last thing you said with your normal voice?"  WW President Carter Cooper and Vice President John Edwards were discussing this topic at the recent Texas Laryngectomee Association convention in Austin.  We included memories from a number of WW members in the May issue.  Here are some additional ones:

"I stayed in a hotel just across the street from the hospital, so my husband and daughter were with me all the time till I went in the operating room.  My last words to them were, 'I love you,' and 'Be here when I come out.'  But in the operating room there were a lot of people doing this and that, and there was this gentle woman of color who took my hand.  She told me everything would be fine.  She held my hand till Dr. Weber came in.  I just had time to say 'Thank you.'  She patted my hand and smiled.  What a beautiful person. I know this is long, but I still think about her.  God Bless."  (Jean Lakatos,

"I told my three children I loved them, as they were wheeling me into surgery."  (Marlene Snider,

"Not my last words, maybe, but my last thoughts as they were wheeling me into the OR were, 'I'm gonna wake up and not be able to have a cigarette!'" (Ron Langseth,

"I said to my wife, 'I love you.'  Those were also the first words that I was able to get out when first using the Servox.  I waited until June 1994 to have the TEP, and have been talking ever since."  (Charles Lamar,

"My last words were to my mother, who recently passed away on 10/8/99, and my three children.  The tried but true, 'I love you,' and 'I really don't want to lose my voice.'  I walked to the operating room and it really felt like the Green Mile.  I also made a tape of my original voice and one for my buddy, Tao the Cat.  It is really funny but when I turn on that tape, my cat still comes running.  She really misses my talking to her and my new voice sometimes startles her.  I thank God I still am able to communicate with my family and friends.  My Grandson still asks to see the 'boo-boo' and wants to know when it will get better.  I try to explain this is the way it will be and he seems okay with it now.  At first, he said he didn't like it, but now he has grown to accept it." (Jane Brown,

 "Having just lost my younger brother to cancer shortly before, my last words, after telling my husband I loved him, were: 'Thy Will Be Done'; and  those are still the words (in my head) each day." (Maureen Williams,

"The last words I spoke with my natural voice were to my wife, Nancy, as the orderly and nurse wheeled the gurney toward the OR.  'I love you,' I whispered and blew her a kiss. (Charlie Richmond,

"My husband Charlie told me that his last words were to me in the waiting room before they took him to surgery.  They were 'I love You.'  I think of that every time I start to get aggravated with him and it helps me to remember that he is the most precious thing in my life."  (Nancy Richmond,

"I am not sure what my exact last words were, but they were something like this (standing out on the sidewalk in front of the hospital with my brother-in-law prior to checking in): 'For real this time, this is my last smoke.' (Larry Evans,

"May 15, 1995, I said to my wife of many years, 'I love you.'" (Pat Smith,

Here Comes the Sun!

    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.

    Finally, another approach to protecting yourself from the sun is to wear sunscreens.  Research has shown that people do not wear it often enough, do not apply it properly, and do not apply enough.  Some tips on using sunscreen include :

  Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. SPF 30 is better, and waterproof will stay on better.

  Wear sunscreen if you are going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes.

  Apply sunscreens to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors.

  When applying sunscreen, pay particular attention to the face, ears, hands and arms, and generously coat the skin that is not covered by clothing. 

  One ounce of sunscreen, more than two tablespoons, is considered the amount needed to completely cover exposed areas.  Do not skimp.

  Reapply sunscreens every 2 hours or immediately after swimming, exercise, or drying yourself with a towel even if you use waterproof sunscreen. 

    Everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer, but you can improve your odds by limiting your exposure to the sun.

(Information and quotes from the American Cancer Society, The American Academy of Dermatology, and The Gainesville (FL) Sun)

Welcome New Members 

We welcome the 14 new members who joined us in May:

Linda Caraway (Caregiver)
College Station, TX
Christine Christiansen
Dawson City, Yukon, Canada
Michael Collins
Aurora, CO
Arthur Flynn
Foxboro, MA
Carolyn Gartner - SLP
New York City, NY
Frank Goodale
Fort Myers, FL
Jim Hartz
Florence, SC
Hiedi Hinds (Caregiver)
Orange, TX
Lorrance Lancaster
Sale, Victoria, Australia
Randy Lemster
Las Vegas, NV
Dorothy Lennox
Luminaud, Inc., Mentor, OH
Mary Sherry
Honolulu, HI
Betty Temby
Millbrae, CA
Marylú Villanueva (Caregiver)
Mexico City, Mexico

As a charitable organization, as described in IRS § 501(c)(3), the
WebWhispers Nu-Voice Club
is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions
 in accordance with IRS § 170.

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