Support for the supporters
After a loved one is diagnosed with laryngeal cancer there are many questions and emotions that can go through your mind. On this page you will find answers to many of those questions and also get support during this trying time.
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What is laryngectomy?
A total laryngectomy is the complete removal of the larynx/voice box. The larynx/voice box provides sound for speech and prevents food, liquid, and saliva from entering the airway.
A total laryngectomy will change how your loved one speaks, but most people are usually able to regain their voice but in different ways. After the surgery, the medical team will find a way for your loved one to replace the sound source to speak. Thankfully, there are three main options for replacing the sound source.
What is larynx cancer?
What is your role?
Often, those diagnosed with laryngeal cancer are overwhelmed by the diagnosis and all the information given. At this stage, they will be in need of your reassurance and support.
Being physically and emotionally present for your loved one and trying to keep a positive attitude throughout their cancer journey is vitally important. Reassuring them that you will be there every step of the way is critical.
After the surgery, your loved one will be considered a neck breather as they will no longer breathe through their mouth and nose. They will only breathe through a small opening at the base of their neck called a stoma. Typically, they will not have to learn how to breathe again, as the lungs still know what to do. The air is redirected in and out of the stoma instead of the mouth and nose. Therefore, it is critical that you understand how they will breathe after surgery.
It is likely your loved one will be overwhelmed after receiving a laryngeal cancer diagnosis and it is important that you provide strong emotional support in the days ahead.
You want to make sure you are fully informed about what to expect throughout this journey. By knowing what lies ahead, you can help your loved one feel less anxiety and stress.
Before surgery, it is important to be well prepared so that your significant other feels calmer. After surgery, it may take some practice understanding your new loved one’s new way of speaking. It’s important not to get frustrated if you don’t understand your loved one at first.
As well as being a shoulder to lean on, you can offer practical support to your loved one in several ways.
You can be a tremendous help to your loved one if you attend all appointments to act as a second “ear”. Take notes about what is said and keep it in a notebook. That way you can easily refer to those notes.
Your loved one should have a medical alert bracelet with “total neck breather” engraved on it along with any other important medical information like allergies, diabetes, etc. Prior to coming home from the hospital, it is also important to notify your local emergency medical service that your loved one is a neck breather and may have trouble communicating at times.
You are not alone in this
Taking care of yourself
You may feel like a lot is expected of you but it is important to remember that you are not alone. You will be providing vital emotional and practical support for your loved one but it is also important that you take care of yourself.
You have your family, friends, and a medical team that will help you at each step. The medical team will teach you and your loved one how to care for the stoma, wounds, and/or feeding tube before going home.
At times you will need support, during those times reach out to friends and family for help.
- Let them run errands for you
- Prepare a meal
- Do chores around the house
How do I tell my family about the laryngectomy?
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