Finding my voice after throat and salivary gland cancer

I’ve been struggling to make myself understood ever since I was a senior in high school. In April 1985, I was diagnosed with stage III nasopharyngeal carcinoma (a rare type of throat cancer). And for a while, my throat was so raw and painful from the radiation treatments I received that I didn’t want to talk. Those radiation treatments gave my voice a very “nasal” quality, too, so it was sometimes hard for people to understand me when I finally did start talking again. Around the year 2000, I started having more trouble speaking due to the radiation treatments I’d received as a teenager. It became even more challenging in September 2016, when I was diagnosed with stage II salivary gland cancer. I had surgery and more radiation to treat that. Today, I am cancer-free, but I’m still struggling to be heard. Learning new ways to communicate Speech without proper tongue movement is almost impossible. And speech therapy doesn’t help much when your tongue isn’t fully functional. So I carry a notepad with me wherever I go, and sometimes, a dry erase board. Because after the last round of surgery — during which Randal Weber, M.D. removed part of my right thigh muscle and two arteries from my left hand/wrist to repair my neck — the back, right-hand side of my tongue stopped working. I can still talk aloud, but my speech is becoming even harder to understand, and Dr. Weber says it will likely continue to deteriorate. So, when a person can’t figure out what I’m trying to say, I just take a deep breath and write it...