tried to be an exception, I have tried to be exceptional, and I have tried to be non-exceptional. In all honesty, and in all respects, I have succeeded. It is apropos that I started writing this while on a business trip to Washington D.C., a trip that had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact I am a laryngectomee. It is also fitting that I finished it after having been to a Cancer Survivor's Breakfast, in conjunction with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life Celebration.
Of the eighty to ninety people at the breakfast that morning, most were unremarkable in appearance. There was one young lady with a hat covering her baldness, who was clearly going through chemo or radiation. There was another person with an apparent artificial leg. Other than those two, the only way to distinguish any as being cancer survivors were the tee shirts they had on. Oh yes, there was one person there with a visible hole in his neck; me. We can cover them up, I do when I wear a tie, and we all know people who wear turtle necks and dickeys. But even when we do that, it is a dead giveaway once we start to talk. My philosophy is, "If you can't hide it, you might as well flaunt it."
My preacher gave a sermon a few years ago on "Embracing your Cross. The message was simply that we each have our own cross (or burden) to bear, and we should embrace it. In this way we conquer it. I think this fits in well with my philosophy that we sure can't change what we've had, or where we've been. What we can do is control where we are going, how we're going to get there, and what path we're going to take.
I know of four methods of alaryngeal speech: esophageal, tracheo-esophageal (TEP prosthesis), Cooper-Rand type wand (intra-mouth), and Servox type (held against the neck). There are strong advantages to each, and strong disadvantages to each. There have been plenty of times I have seriously thought of learning esophageal speech, and not putting up with all the inherent problems of a Blom-Singer device. The device will get a little phlegm in it - and no sound comes out. Just when you need it, the glue gives way, and dies. Even worse, the anxiety of trying to get the device back in when the puncture is two sizes smaller than the device. It is even worse if you are in a hotel room in Germany, and have no idea of the German words for this, or if they even have words for it. These feelings usually last anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds. Then I think about the two men, about my age, who got cancer about the same time I did. One with prostate, and one with liver; both dead. I realize how lucky I am. I think about how well I can speak, when I work at it; and then I re-glue, or clean out the phlegm, or try again to insert the device. The sun shines, the birds sing, and I can talk.
I know people, equally adept at one of the other three methods of alaryngeal speech, who probably go through the same thought processes; and quickly come back to the idea of how lucky they are.
My laryngectomy has transformed me from what was an ordinary person, even though I don't want to admit it, to someone who is not. All my adult life I have been a salesman, and even though I now own and run the company, I still am a salesman. Every salesman wants to be remembered, wants to stand out from the crowd, and
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