A DARTFORD woman who had her voice box removed during cancer treatment has revealed how she learned to talk again.

Patricia Platt, 72, of Sussex Road, had the operation to take out her larynx six years ago and now has a permanent valve fitted in the base of her throat with a cassette in it.

She supported the Giving Voice campaign at Darent Valley Hospital last month and explained how the team of speech and language therapists helped her regain her voice.

She said: "Although I fully understood what the surgery meant for me it was such a big shock to wake up following the operation with no voice.

"I have a small cassette inserted into the valve in my neck and this is what allows me to talk. I had to learn a completely new way making sounds and the team helped me every step of the way.

"I have to replace the cassette every day and rely on the team to fit a new valve every eight weeks.

"However, my speech and language therapy started straight away and I can honestly say that without their guidance and continued support I would not be able to live the life I do today.

"I also needed to learn how to swallow in a different way and this meant a new way of eating too.

"Some foods, such as bread or chewy meat I cannot manage and it is only now, some six years later that I am starting to get a sense of taste and smell back.

"It is an amazing sensation to be able to smell again and I vividly remember being able to smell geraniums for the first time in years."

News Shopper: Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford

During the campaign, the Medway Community Healthcare (MCH) speech and language team, based in Darent Valley, met with patients and their families to give them an insight into their roles.

Specialist speech and language therapist at MCH, Susanne Singh, said: "Although a rare condition, the ongoing support and care we provide for Patricia is just one example of the complex therapy and rehabilitation needed for people to get back their speech." 

Each year the speech and language therapy team help nearly 2,500 people from Dartford, Gravesham and the surrounding areas to develop and regain vital communication and swallowing skills.