Dave Dunn

“For anyone who is about to undergo a total laryngectomy, I would like you to know that it will be okay. If possible, try to connect with a fellow throat cancer survivor.”

30 Stories in 30 Days

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. For the next 4 weeks, we will post stories written by cancer survivors, caregivers and friends for our 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign. We hope their perspectives and insight will help others along their journey.

I love to talk. If I could talk all day, I would. Truth be told, I come pretty close to it most days. I have been a salesman my entire life and talking is simply my livelihood. So when my doctor told me that he would be removing my voice-box, my whole world was turned upside down. Who would I be without my voice?

I was 45 years old when I first learned that I had throat cancer. It all seemed to happen so fast. One moment I was visiting my doctor for a raspy voice and nagging earache, the next, I was undergoing a full course of radiation therapy. After a few years cancer-free, I learned that my cancer had returned. This time, radiation was not an option and I would have to undergo a partial laryngectomy. My surgeon removed part of my voice-box, but my voice remained unchanged. I was okay. I was still me. Unfortunately, my battle was not over. Once again, the cancer returned and this time it would take the other part of my voice-box with it.

Sure, this process may not be easy. It definitely won’t be fun. But you will still be you on the other side.

Leading up to my total laryngectomy, I was a wreck. I was so afraid that I would never speak again and that my life as I knew it was over. Thankfully, I was connected with a fellow cancer survivor, Kevin, who had undergone a total laryngectomy as well. Meeting Kevin was truly the best thing that could have happened to me at that time in my life. He was confident and spoke with clarity and conviction. He reassured me that I would speak again and that I would continue to lead a normal life after all of this was behind me. Best of all, our meeting was cut short because he had to run off to a business meeting. I was anything but offended. The normalcy of his busy life brought me incredible hope.

After my total laryngectomy, I learned to use a TEP to speak. I had found my voice again and was eager to return to my daily life. My debut (so-to-speak) back to the sales world was a national conference. This conference would be the first time that my colleagues, clients, and other salesmen would hear my new voice. Needless to say, I was nervous going in and unsure of how people would treat me. However, once I was there, everything was absolutely fine. That day, I dove right into the deep end and never looked back. Now, whenever I meet a new client, I simply address the elephant in the room – I had throat cancer and this is how I speak now – then we move onto more important and pressing matters.

For anyone who is about to undergo a total laryngectomy, I would like you to know that it will be okay. If possible, try to connect with a fellow throat cancer survivor. I cannot stress enough the peace of mind that meeting someone like Kevin offered me. Sure, this process may not be easy. It definitely won’t be fun. But you will still be you on the other side.