Head & Neck Cancer Swallowing Therapy Mobile Technology
In 2007, I found a lump on the right side of my jaw. I had chemotherapy and radiation and 75 per cent of my tongue removed. I was fine for six years and then found another lump. This time it was on the other side of my face. I had the same surgery as the first time, but they had to remove 100 per cent of my tongue.
Doctors had to take grafts of skin from my wrist and thigh to try reconstruct parts of my tongue and jaw. I had to relearn everything, to speak, to swallow. It’s been really hard. I am now one-year post-swallowing therapy and it’s been really beneficial. It’s helped with things most people take for granted.
If I want to swallow a sip of water, for instance, I have to concentrate on what I’m doing. I have to think: swallow…swallow… swallow. Then hold my breath. Clear my throat. That’s my routine for one sip of water. If I am distracted in a group of people, I can choke. Sometimes it’s easier to just not do anything in a group. Often, I just stay home and that’s hard.
"I am now one-year post-swallowing therapy and it’s been really beneficial. It’s helped with things most people take for granted."
- Linda Neill
Therapy has made a difference. It’s hard work, but if you take it seriously, it pays off. When you think about what you’re doing, it becomes second nature after awhile. But still, I only drink water right now. I am waiting on a dental procedure and am trying to avoid any infection within my mouth from any form of food. I get my other nutrition through a peg tube in my stomach, which I’ve had since 2007. I do have smoothies, only not orally—I just tube feed them.
Sometimes I miss eating food, especially if I smell something delicious, but I can’t dwell on it. My husband is on the road a lot for work but when he comes home on the weekend, I still cook for him because it gives him pleasure. I can’t taste it to see if it’s ok, but it makes me happy and it makes him happy. My husband is so fabulous, he’s been my rock. It’s been a hard road but I’m happy to hear about research for head and neck cancer patients—it’s important to try get some of your life back.