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How Speech Therapy Helped This Cancer Survivor Find Their Voice Again

Posted by Brian Spence on Feb 14, 2020 8:00:00 AM

Speech Therapy, Allied Health, HealthcareCan you imagine coming out from under anesthesia only to learn that you had no voice? This is exactly what happened to one Long Beach Resident after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. In order to remove the cancer, 75% of his tongue had to be removed. Palos Verdes Peninsula News reported on Harvey Swartz's experience and the rehabilitation he received from an unlikely source.

From Trauma to Recovery

The road to recovery wasn't an easy one and not one that could be fast tracked but Harvey found the motivation he needed after attending a performance he wouldn't be likely to forget. After watching a street-performing ventriloquist, he approached and asked for some advice, after all he explained, "If he could speak with his mouth closed and the words were so clear, maybe I could, too." The street performer gave him some tips on exercises he could do such as saying the alphabet with his mouth closed, over and over. Also, not focusing on using his tongue for speech, rather relying more on speaking from the back of the mouth and using his diaphragm. After 6 months of this kind of speech therapy, he was able to speak once again.

How Speech Therapy Is Helping Cancer Survivors Find Their Voice

Harvey's daughter Jennifer has aspirations of becoming a speech therapist so that she can others like her father. She plans on incorporating some of the same techniques as recommended by the street-ventriloquist in her own professional practice later on. Speech Therapists today play a pivotal role in the successful rehabilitation of cancer patients who have lost ability to speak and swallow following surgery. Understanding the potential effects of their surgery on ability to speak should be part of preoperative counseling. Knowing that they will have the support of a multi-disciplinary team, including speech therapy, during rehabilitation will result in a more successful rehabilitation according to the Oncology Journal.

Perhaps you too are looking for ways to make a difference in someone's life through your work as a speech therapist. Contact us about open positions to see if we can help.

And if you are interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Healthcare section of our blog.


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