Internet Laryngectomee Support
Tom Healey - Lary in a Hurry
Tom Healey is way too busy and in a hurry to let becoming a laryngectomee get in his way. Tom, from New Jersey, started to get hoarse at the end of 2000. Although just 42, he was a long time smoker and drinker, had dealt with lots of hazardous materials, and had also been exposed to paint, solvents, and other fumes. By February 2001, he was having problems swallowing. Ultimately the cancer diagnosis was made.
Tom is a truck driver and had owned his own rig for a time, drove for a several union companies, and last worked full time for Jevic Transportation. He was fired when he needed more time off for radiation. He now drives a truck within his New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts area.
But Tom's passion is another kind of driving - - racing. He races every Saturday and a few Sundays from April through September in racing events which are often the pre-show event for demolition derbies. He races for the fun of it. As he says, "I don't make any money. I started back in 1977 at Freeport Speedway on Long Island, ran a few races at Islip on Long Island. Then I bought a truck and was running from New York to California."
Tom also worked as the track photographer at Wall Stadium in 1993, started
working on a car in 1994, and bought his own in 2000. About racing he said, "It
feels great to win, not only for me, but for the work the team did." Racing gets
into your blood and he tried to race three days after his laryngectomy with the
stitches still in, but the track officials wouldn't let him. As he put it, "I
don't think the helmet would have fit anyway."
Racing his own car in 2000, he managed to finish 15th in points out of 52 cars
despite only racing half a season. He completely rebuilt the car over the
winter, doing most of the work himself in putting the motor in, painting and
cleaning it. More recently he said, "We do okay. Came from a nobody team last
year and had the third fastest time in the time trials for the fifty lapper, my
bad choice of tires, then drew the pole position, blew a tire and finished 9th."
Such is racing. Of his age he says, "It's tough keeping up with these young
On what he misses about life before becoming a lary he lists the ability to smell and water ski. But he emphasizes the positive and does not miss snoring and a chronic stuffed up nose, and concludes, "I accept things as they are. People I race with can't believe I do this after an operation like that. They think I should go back to being a photographer. Hey, I hurt my back in 1984, and still drive a truck. This isn't a handicap."
Concerning opportunities to help fellow laryngectomees he recalled, "When I went
back to my speech pathologist, she had a woman come in to see me because her
husband had the surgery that day. It was my first day with the TEP and showed
her that I could speak. She was in tears with happiness because she thought her
husband would never talk again." He was also asked on the spur of the moment to
speak to a group in Atlantic City about what had happened to him. They asked
questions about the surgery and he explained what probably caused it. "One guy
threw a pack of cigs in the garbage," he said.
He has also been reaching out to kids. He says that some listen and others do not. When they come to see him and his car they always ask about his stoma and voice and he gets to give them the talk on using tobacco.
The kids are also interested in the police badge painted on the hood this year. It is a copy of his cousin's badge, Sergeant Timmy Roy, who was killed in the World Trade Center attack on 9/11. His body was only recently recovered.
Tom had a radical dissection on one side and still has a few problems with some numbness and swelling.
His race team consists of himself and his crew chief and housemate Dave, along with crew members Kenny and Jimmie. The whole sport is very team-oriented, "When something happens, like you wreck or something, guys from other crews are right there to help you. We help each other." Kind of like laryngectomees.
"I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but it ain't slowing me down."
If you hurry, you might catch Tom at Cbl4501@aol.com
Another Famous Lary Musician - Peter Doyle
I'd like to Teach the World to Sing might be his best known song worldwide. It began as a Coca-Cola soft drink commercial, but became a kind of international anthem for world peace and understanding.
Peter Doyle was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1949, and became one of the most famous Aussie musicians on the international popular music scene. In the U.S. his work with the group "The New Seekers" is probably best known. Some of his more famous songs include I Can Say You're Beautiful; Lay Me Down; Move Me Lord; What Have They Done to My Song, Ma; Beg, Steal or Borrow; I'll Be Your Song; and heavier rock numbers like Boom Town and Cincinnati.
Peter quit the "New Seekers" in 1973 to pursue a solo career, and much of his time was spent in the U.K. He returned to Australia in 1987 and performed on the club circuit until he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
He died in 2001 of lung cancer after becoming a laryngectomee.
Debi Austin - Another Lary Bearer of the Olympic Flame
(Editor's Note: In the March issue of the WWJ we profile members Mike Boone and Bob Herbst who carried the Olympic flame for part of its 13,000 mile journey to Salt Lake City and the 2002 Olympic Games. See http://www.webwhispers.org/news/mar2002.htm. This month Debi Austin tells her story).
by Debi Austin
I was nominated by the daughter of a close friend, Kim. When I had my surgery, Kim came to the hospital every day. She sat with me many hours when I was learning to speak again. She was with me one day after the PSA (public service announcement) aired, [See http://webwhispers.org/news/may2001.htm] and we were swamped by students wanting to talk to me. We spent an hour sitting there talking. She wrote about the experience that day. I have been speaking in high schools since 1996.
I had my surgery December 1992. I used a Cooper-Rand for the first two years. I had TEP surgery, but could not produce sound. However the practice did help my esophageal speech, so I was not disappointed in the surgery. I still keep a Cooper-Rand at hand in case of emergency. I have emphysema, so during lung infections I often have trouble speaking. My surgeon was/is wonderful. He insisted that I go to a support group before I had surgery and called another patient to make sure I went. Before they put me out he said, "Remember, nothing will ever keep you quiet, only alter the sound." When I was in college drawing political cartoons and posters for a living one of them had the comment, "You have not converted a man simply because you have silenced him!" Perhaps I was preparing myself and didn't know it.
When I received the call I was not the least bit prepared, at first I thought it was a candid camera bit. I was not in tune with the "torch" event or paying attention to any of the publicity that went with it. The lady, Linda, was very understanding when I questioned her.
I carried the torch the first leg of the relay in Paso Robles on January 17th. It was awesome. Every picture I have, I am crying. When asked if I could stop crying for a minute, my answer was, "I doubt it." Because I cannot walk 1100 ft, Walmart furnished a cart for me.
The fact that anything I could do would have an impact on someone's life that they would write and nominate me was overwhelming. I lost a dear friend a week before. I was carrying the torch for Dwight Pollock and cancer survivors everywhere.
Just a footnote, there is no such thing as an Olympic Torch, they are designed for each event. You are carrying the "Olympic Flame." When you take your first step, you are the only person in the world carrying that flame! No pressure there!
Debi can be reached at email@example.com.
The Healing Power of Pets - Our Best Friends
(Edited by Judy Greiwe)
THE RAINBOW BRIDGE
There is a bridge connecting heaven and earth.
It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of its many colors.
Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows,
hills and valleys with lush green grass.
When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place.
There is always food and water and warm spring weather.
The old and frail animals are young again.
Those who are maimed are made whole again. They play all day with each other.
There is only one thing missing.
They are not with their special person who loved them on earth.
So, each day they run and play until the day comes
when one suddenly stops playing and looks up! The nose twitches! The ears are up!
The eyes are staring! And this one suddenly runs from the group!
You have been seen, and when you and your special friend meet,
you take him or her in your arms and embrace.
Your face is kissed again and again and again.
And you look once more into the eyes of your trusted pet.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated.
Welcome New Members
We welcome the 19 new members who joined us during April 2002:
Duncan, BC, Canada
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Joy Gaziano - SLP
Des Moines, IA
Palm Harbor, FL
Liz Panton - "Communicate"
Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
Dr. Sourou Pindra - OB-GYN
Chapel Hill, NC
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