Retired railway engineer Tony smoked heavily since he was just nine-years-old. He regularly smoked 70 – 80 cigarettes a day but he ditched tobacco the day he underwent surgery to remove his voice box in August 2012 after being diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. Tony now breathes through an opening in his neck, known as a stoma, and talks using an artificial voice box.
“It was difficult to get used to this new way of breathing through the hole in my neck rather than through my mouth or nose. It affects you in so many different ways. My nose doesn’t do anything anymore, I don’t breathe through it and I have no sense of smell. To talk now I have to press down on the valve on my neck.
“Eating takes me a lot longer than the average person because I’ve had so many nerves removed that I can’t move my tongue in the same way I used to. It’s a much harder process and my mouth is really sensitive now.
“There’s a lot of things I used to enjoy doing, like swimming, which I can’t do anymore because I have to be careful to make sure water doesn’t get into my lungs through the opening in my neck. I’m terrified to think about going near a boat. I can still shower but I have to attach a special valve to my neck that prevents water getting into my throat.”