Archive for August 20th, 2010

Every woman is devastated when she hears the news she has breast cancer, some, who are the ‘Lucky’ ones may only lose a small section of breast or they may lose the breast completely.

The actor Michael Douglas, has just been diagnosed with throat cancer, and has been on my mind for the last couple of days.

Michael, a very talented actor , extremely wealthy with a beautiful wife, has everything money can buy.

BUT Michael now has cancer and for all his wealth and his wonderful homes , nothing will save him for the treatment he must now face to save his life. Michael, will go through chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy, his skin will be black and burnt from the radiation, he will lose his voice his wonderful voice may be lost forever.

I found an article in the Daily Mail this morning written by writer Nigel Smith.

Nigel explains the nightmare Michael has yet to face.

Michael Douglas has one of the most recognisable voices in the world. It is smooth, powerful, masculine. It can seduce, comfort, frighten.

It can make you like him, it can make you laugh. It is a large part of his formidable acting talent that has seen him scoop one Oscar and be hotly tipped for another.

Yet now, following the revelations he has a cancerous growth in his throat, he is threatened with its loss.


Michael Douglas is threatened with the loss of his powerful voice due to a cancerous growth in his throat
I’m not a hollywood star; I’m not even an actor. But I do know what agony Douglas must be going through right now. Because losing my own voice was one of the most distressing things that has happened to me. And, to be honest, I’ve had quite a few horrendous things to compare it with.

Think about it for a moment. I’m not talking here about losing your voice for a few days – the result of a sore throat, perhaps, or cheering too loudly at a football match. I mean losing it for weeks, months, years, perhaps even for the rest of your life.

Imagine if you couldn’t ever talk again, how devastating that would be.

‘It makes you feel less than human’: Nigel Smith went through months of treatment after loosing his own voice
It’s the sound of our friends’ and family’s voices that we often love most about them.

From your mum singing you to sleep, to your children’s laughter, from your partner’s words of affection, your teacher’s praise, your friends with their support,
comradeship or comfort, their voice is what makes them most human, what connects them to you.

To lose that connection is a terrible thing. It can make you feel less than human. When it happened to me – almost overnight – it cut me off from society more completely than being forced to use a wheelchair or losing the use of the left side of my body.

In November 2001, aged just 36, I suffered a sudden onset of a brain lesion in my medulla (the brain’s signal box). Although there was nothing wrong with the thinking part of my brain, bits of me kept shutting down; my legs, my eyes, my arms, my ability to swallow. And my voice.

My tongue was paralysed and my vocal cords frozen open. It took a lungful of air to say one word, which was monotone, lifeless and almost unintelligible. I was rushed to Charing Cross hospital, West London, where, despite a variety of treatments, my condition deteriorated.

This was made more frightening as I became less and less able to communicate with the doctors and nurses. The loss of my voice made me feel vulnerable and alone. My wife Michele became my voice in the hospital, and to a certain extent it’s a role she still takes on today.

After two weeks on the wards I was admitted to intensive care, where I remained for several months. What was left of my speech was taken away during the emergency tracheotomy I underwent to enable me to breathe on my way to intensive care.

A small incision was made in my neck and a special tube inserted beneath my vocal cords. It protected my airway and enabled an artificial ventilator to breathe for me, but I was now unable to speak at all.

Over the following days, as I began to improve, I had to adjust to my new, voiceless world. And to be honest, it was a hell of a shock.

It was soon clear that people think if you can’t speak, you can’t hear. Or understand. Various doctors would talk over me, or bend down, close to my face, and
talk very slowly and loudly. like. I. Was. An. Idiot. Child.

Since I was still able to hold a pen, I soon learned the power of the written word. One very shouty, horsey-faced consultant was at my bedside one morning, pontificating noisily to her gaggle of juniors. I began to write, very slowly and deliberately. Finally, I held up the pad. It read: ‘Oy! I’m down here. And I’m not bloody deaf.’

She was much better after that. But as the weeks wore on, there were many times I ached to have my voice back. Even for just a moment. So on my first Christmas Day in hospital, I insisted I came off the ventilator for one minute just to wish my family a croaky, wheezy, ‘Merry Christmas’.

I probably sounded like Frankenstein’s monster after a night on the tiles, but it was a joy for my family to hear.
Slow rehabilitation followed; I saw a series of speech therapists (the collective noun is a ‘dribble’).

My right vocal cord started vibrating again and surgeons injected a kind of plastic into the paralysed left cord to plump it up and improve breath control.


Like Nigel Smith’s wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones may have to act as her husband’s interpreter during his recovery after surgery for a cancerous growth in his throat

After six months I didn’t need to write sweary notes to doctors so much; I could curse out loud again – albeit only for a few wheezing words. As for anything resembling a conversation? Forget it. And so I had to adjust to being voiceless in the wider world.

Out in town, first with a wheelchair and then a Zimmer, then a stick, I was amazed at the reactions I got.

The same people who would be sympathetic to almost any other certain disability – such as being unable to walk – would get angry, impatient and frustrated when they couldn’t tell what I was trying to say.

Unfortunately, the view that I must be deaf as well as dumb was to be found in shops, ticket offices and cafes everywhere. I still have an irrational hatred of the Royal Mail after several horrible encounters in my local post office, when counter staff, unable to make out what I was saying, simply walked off rather than try to understand what I wanted.

Once, they put the ‘position closed’ sign up! Today, when the postie turns up, it’s not only the dog that wants to chew his leg off.

Fed up with being treated as subnormal, I began to stay indoors, to shop online. To retire from life. I wasn’t going out, wasn’t seeing friends, wasn’t ‘networking’.

As for work, just before I was ill, I lost my job as a TV producer. Now, without even a voice to speak up for me, I didn’t think I’d ever have a chance of getting another job.
I was even becoming withdrawn from my family.

I discovered a talent that many disabled people have, of writing ourselves out of normal life, writing ourselves off. And it was my lack of speech that held me back from fully joining in again.

It was as if I was a spectator in the world, rather than a part of it.

Today, almost a decade on, my voice is much improved and I’ve dragged myself back into the world, but I’m not quite there yet.

I don’t go to the pub much any more, not because of the fact I can’t swallow, but because I find it difficult to make myself heard over background noise. What’s the point of going to the pub if you can’t talk when you get there?

On the plus side, relying on a keyboard or pen to communicate has opened up a new opportunity for me as a scriptwriter.

I now write a comedy series for BBC Radio 4 called Vent, about a man in a coma. Where do I get the ideas from?
The actor who plays ‘me’ is Neil Pearson. In the last series, Neil took voice lessons in how to sound like I did in the early days of my recovery.

When I heard him speak in character for the first time, it shocked me.

It was accurate, and it was frightening. It was flat, lifeless, without personality. It was almost inhuman. Part of me understood why those post office clerks ran away.
I do miss my old voice. It wasn’t as mellifluous as Richard Burton’s, as powerful as Churchill’s, as musical as Van Morrison’s – or as lucrative as Michael Douglas’s. But then again it wasn’t as annoying as Alan Carr’s, either.

When I lost it, I felt like I had lost my ‘self’. If the eyes are the mirror to the soul, then your voice articulates that mirror. It is who you are. And in some cases, like for Michael Douglas, it is also their livelihood.

But take it from me, whoever you are, you should treasure your voice every day that you have use of it.

It might not be your livelihood, but don’t underestimate how we, in our ordinary, non-starry lives, are also actors, politicians, comedians.

When we negotiate the minefields of the office, or try to convince the kids to do their homework; when we try to make our family and friends laugh, or to get strangers to like us; when we go about our ordinary, daily business, we’re all of these things and more.

Yes, losing your voice feels like a terrible loss. But I hope that Michael Douglas can learn – as slowly I have learned – that it need not make you any less of a person.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1304570/No-wonder-poor-Michael-Douglas-looks-scared-When-I-lost-voice-Id-lost-soul.html#ixzz0x7oVEIDQ

Read Full Post »