5 ways to help a cancer patient with speaking challenges

After being treated for nasopharyngeal carcinoma (a rare type of throat cancer) in 1985 and salivary gland cancer in 2016, speaking has become a real challenge for me. I can still talk, but sometimes my speech is hard for others to understand. Because of this, sometimes people try to help me in ways that aren’t really useful. So here are some “dos” and “don’ts” for how to be an ally to a cancer patient (or anyone else) with speech challenges. Don’t treat me differently When the wait staff tried to serve me at a recent Christmas dinner, one woman at my table kept saying, “She’s not eating.” When I was offered tea, she added, loudly, “She’s not drinking, either.” That lady probably thought she was doing me a favor. But it didn’t feel that way. I might not be able to speak as clearly as I’d like to anymore, but my mind still works just fine, and I am quite capable of communicating in other ways. I wish she would have trusted me to speak for myself. At a restaurant or party, I can either say or write, “No, thank you,” when I’m offered food. Or even joke, “I’m on a diet.” Strangers don’t have to know all the gory details. Sometimes, when I go out to eat, I’ll say yes when a waiter offers me water or tea, and then just not drink it. That way, I’m not drawing undue attention to myself. Don’t confuse me with my limitations After surgery, my speech became much more limited, so people often don’t understand me. I frequently find myself writing...