By Yvonne McClaren
Your mouth ‘floor’ is a topic I can almost guarantee you have never raised in polite conversation. Surgically removed tongue during head & neck cancer treatment whether a little or a lot, will provide an endless array of ‘taken for granted’ experiences that will be sorely missed.
Like an old and trusted pair of house slippers you get use to using for sub-conscious activity, small and seemingly insignificant things like moving food around your mouth, swallowing, licking a spoon when cooking, kissing, talking & whistling.
Some people believe that supernatural or extraterrestrial forces are at work, while others think that natural phenomena such as human error, piracy, or severe weather conditions are responsible. In the case of HNC treatment and in my case, it has been as the result of loss of saliva, bone death and a third of my tongue being removed due to a squamous cell carcinoma.
The tongue is a crucial organ for various functions such as speech, swallowing, and taste. If a person’s tongue is removed, it can have a significant impact on not only the floor of their mouth, but also their social life, sex life and work life.
The floor of the mouth is made up of muscles and tissues that support the tongue and aid in various functions, such as the aforementioned swallowing and speech. When the tongue is removed, the floor of the mouth can become less supported and may sag or droop. This, I discovered was the cause of my Bermuda Triangle mouth.
Additionally, the removal of the tongue may also affect the nerves and blood vessels in the area, which can result in numbness or tingling sensations, or in my case the inability to purse my lips to apply lipstick, which took nearly 3 years to improve.
Overall, the removal of the tongue can have a significant impact on the function and structure of the floor of the mouth. Rehabilitation, such as speech therapy and physical therapy, may be necessary to help the person adapt to these changes and improve their quality of life.
And that is just the half of it, it affects so much of your social / public life.
Like the associated myths and legends of the Bermuda Triangle, it could potentially influence people’s eating habits in different ways. For instance, some people might avoid eating seafood from the area due to fears that it might be contaminated by unknown forces or creatures, or like me find that prawn meat is able to be chewed and swallowed with relative ease, but crayfish meat can’t be chewed and is very difficult to swallow.
Others might have developed superstitions about the types of foods that are safe or risky to consume when traveling through the Bermuda Triangle, leading them to pack specific items for their journeys. Now, it’s a given that pre planning, packed treats, good solid food foundation knowledge is a must after treatment, and before travelling anywhere outside of the privacy of one’s own kitchen.
Furthermore, the mysterious and ominous reputation of the Bermuda Triangle has also made it a popular topic in movies, books, and TV shows, which could further reinforce these beliefs and behaviors. Therefore, there might be a link between the Bermuda Triangle and eating, albeit one that is rooted more in culture and folklore than in any scientific evidence or fact.
What I do know for certain is that only those that have been through the tongue removal journey know the trials and tribulations of mince beef, soft cooked fish, ham, sauce, rice, potato and bread. What will go down and what will survive to resurface from the deep?
It’s SAD – Swallow Awareness Day March 16th – it’s more than a reflex.
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