When you have a laryngectomy stoma (like a tracheostomy but when they have removed your larynx as well) water can be your enemy. Gone are my days of swimming. Okay fine, after 3rd grade swim team (my sole athletic achievement was one third place ribbon, thank you very much) I never really swam! I won't be going in the ocean above my waist again (and not if there is a hint of waves) because there is no way to prevent water from going into my stoma and straight into my lungs. Ditto the pool. Ditto sailing. Yes, you are right there too - i haven't been on the catamaran in several years. But we did do a cool stingray encounter and a night boat excursion this last summer in Costa Rica - things of the past. Even the shower poses a risk, i have to wear a special stoma cover and then another splash guard over that (which looks rather like a silicon jock strap) - and I'm still nervous right now.
But OHHHH Water!!!! Sweet, cool, refreshing...YES BABY! Today i started working on sipping water at home. Before the surgery we had been under the impression that i might never drink again. Without a tongue and an epiglottis there is no gate keeper or seal to keep liquid from going into your trachea (lungs) rather than your esophagus (stomach). If i had kept my larynx then there would have been a difficult and potentially impossible process of trying to learn how to swallow without aspirating. So lucky for me they had to hack out the old larynx, eh? This left me with two distinct 'tubes' that no longer can comingle. So this week, after a swallow test, i got cleared for sipping clear fluids! Well, i got cleared to learn how to drink clear fluids. I'm fairly sure you wouldn't want me as a dinner guest quite yet. I sit at the table with a bucket below me and a washcloth in one hand. Then i take small a small sip of water and work on tipping my head slightly back and maybe swishing it to the side a bit and then trying to swallow a bit. They took out part of my esophagus also (what the hell didn't they touch) so its learning how to work again as well. When i swallow a take some air right now so there are burps and i can't quite clear the last bit of liquid, it pools at the front of my mouth with no tongue to flick it back, so i spit at the end. But two sessions today and I'm already making progress!! As long as radiation doesn't fry the hell out of my throat i will be swigging back smoothies and soup in no time (aka several months)!
*note: In the photo above i have strategically placed my mug. My lower chin and neck are still fairly swollen, although light years progress has been made.