Throat Cancer Survivor Undergoes 7 Years Of Speech Therapy & Regains Voice
Our voices are an important way for us to convey our ideas and emotions to others. Without it, it would be difficult to let the world listen to what we have to say.
So when Mohandas Kuttan Pillai was told that he was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer in 2012 and had to have his voice box removed, an unimaginable wave of fear washed over him.
Now 71 years old, Mr Mohandas has overcome all the odds, having gone through a voice restoration procedure and almost a decade of speech therapy. After 7 years, he has once again found his voice.
And he’s using it in the best way he knows how—by helping others like him regain their voices through his work with the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) New Voice Club Support Group.
We retell the tale of a throat cancer survivor and how the experience made him stronger.
Diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer
Mr Mohandas, who previously worked as a civil engineering technician, was a heavy smoker for 42 years. He’d usually finish almost 2 packs of cigarettes every day.
However, reality soon caught up with him when he started having severe coughing fits in 2012. One day, as he was sipping water, he collapsed.
That was when Mr Mohandas’ world was turned upside down. He was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer.
A major surgery to his neck had to be done to remove the tumour in his throat. This involved removing his voice box—he would never be able to speak normally again.
But seeing as he was left with no choice, he had to opt for the life-saving surgery.
He survived, but with his voice taken away and not being able to express himself vocally, Mr Mohandas felt isolated and cut off from the world.
For the next 2 years, he lived in silent frustration as he was forced to keep most of his thoughts to himself.
Finds his voice again with support and help
In 2014, renewed hope came in the form of a voice restoration procedure for Mr Mohandas. This was his chance to speak again.
Image courtesy of NVPC
But finding his voice was not a smooth journey. Mr Mohandas had to sit through 7 years of arduous speech therapy.
Speech rehabilitation meant having to re-learn how to breathe, speak, and swallow all over again—things that once came so naturally without a thought.
Throughout the time, he feared he’d never speak again and often felt down, deprived of life’s simplest pleasures like tasting and smelling food.
That was also the least of his struggles. Whilst fighting cancer, Mr Mohandas was unemployed and living in a rental flat alone. He struggled with the financial strain of medical bills.
Thankfully, he was referred to SCS for financial assistance that helped alleviate the costs of treatment.
With the help he received, Mr Mohandas eventually beat the odds and found his voice again.
Uses his new voice to help others on their journey
Having lived through the emotional toil of cancer and all that comes with it, he is now choosing to use his newly found voice to help others.
Mr Mohandas is currently an active member of SCS New Voice Club Support Group.
The rehabilitation group conducts speech practice sessions and gives emotional support to patients recovering from laryngeal cancer.
There, Mr Mohandas uses his experience to assure newly diagnosed patients that they are not alone, teaching them sign language and how to use tools to improve their speech.
And along the way, he even made some great friends from the group who offer support to one another.
He also regularly speaks to students and discourages them from picking up smoking.
Using his voice, he is changing others’ narratives and helping them to once again find their voices.
Offer support to cancer patients
Mr Mohandas hopes to inspire others to do the same this SG Cares Giving Week.
By making everyday choices that could help in lowering our cancer risks, you can adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating well, running, or simply opting to take the stairs.
Participants can look forward to $10 Starbucks Gift Cards—just in time to get your favourite Christmas drinks.
Small actions like these help assure patients and loved ones that they are not in this battle alone.
SG Cares Giving Week initiatives
Our packed calendars can make it challenging for us to do our part, despite being passionate about various causes.
From 1-7 Dec, you can give back to the nonprofit sector through the Everyday Giving initiative by spending with F&B, retail and entertainment outlets.
This initiative focuses on simple giving activities through Eat, Play, Shop – to show that giving can be simple and part of everyday life.
To find out how you can donate, volunteer, or spread the word, tune into SG Cares Giving Week – The Giving Task Force on Channel 5 on 2 Dec at 9.30pm.
The campaign runs from now till 31 Dec. If you’d like to find a cause to get behind, visit the website here or download the SG Cares app on the App Store or Google Play store to find out about the initiatives and partners.
An act of generosity makes a world of difference
For patients fighting cancer, it too often feels like they are fighting a lone battle on a journey fraught with fear, anger, and doubt. The same goes for many other vulnerable individuals in our society.
Living through the pandemic in the past 2 years has made things even more challenging for many of them.
But through it all, we have seen how time and time again, our spirit of giving and supporting has triumphed and helped individuals and families overcome obstacles whilst bringing joy to ourselves and many others.
No act of giving is too small, after all, building a kinder, more compassionate Singapore happens one small act at a time.
This post was brought to you in collaboration with SG Cares Giving Week. SG Cares Giving Week is jointly organised by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, the National Council of Social Service, and the SG Cares Office.
Featured image adapted by MS News.