Regaining his voice: James "Rev" Raley's story
For 24 years, I was a mobile DJ in Houston. My wife Belinda and I had the longest-running, most popular karaoke/DJ show in town. I was never a singer, but Belinda was. She had a beautiful voice. Unfortunately, thyroid cancer left her unable to perform.
At the time I was already a double-bypass survivor. Then I started experiencing pain in my throat. I was a smoker, so I stopped. But the damage was done. I was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer.
In November 2008, my larynx was removed. I also underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Today, I am cancer-free.
After my laryngectomy, I could only communicate with hand gestures or writing on a whiteboard. Then I tried an artificial larynx. But today I use the InHealth Blom-Singer Dual Valve Voice Prosthesis and it works really well for me. I struggled with a variety of prostheses that would leak or dislodge after a short time, and although she wouldn't admit it, I'm sure my speech-language pathologist (SLP) was tired of seeing me. She put in the dual valve and I didn't have to get it replaced for eleven months! I could have sworn she stitched it in! It really did give me peace of mind.
With a voice that sounds different, sometimes people will take notice. We need everyone to understand that our minds are not affected...and that the only disability is other people's inability to understand us and our condition. We as laryngectomees need to use our voices to educate and support others. We all have a lot to say and I know that I have a lot more to say! Watch out, I plan to live long enough to say it!
James "Rev" Raley