Survivor – Karen Liesching-Schroder with her Southend Half Marathon medal (Image: PA)
A TONGUE cancer survivor from Rochford says speech therapy helped her regain confidence to eat out with her family again.
Karen Liesching-Schroder first sought medical help back in 2015 when what she thought was an ulcer became unbearably painful.
The following year, she was left shocked after being given a cancer diagnosis because she was a “fit and healthy person”.
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Karen had never smoked and drank very little alcohol which she often associated with mouth cancer.
After undergoing surgery, the school nursery nurse, reached out to a speech therapist to help regain her confidence again as she suffered from issues with swallowing and eating.
Karen told the PA news agency: “Amelia [her speech therapist] helped me find strategies for dealing with my swallowing issues and eating out in public.
“She also helped me with exercises to help strengthen and straighten my tongue; some of them are mechanically impossible and others that over a period of time, practice, and perversion, actually worked.
“We also worked on a meal diary where I had to try different foods and report back to her.”
Karen said it was “a boost” to see how much she had improved when she repeated a survey which was completed when she was first assessed.
She added: “Amelia helped me with my speech, food and confidence and it was because of her that I was able to start eating out with my family again.”
When Karen was suffering last year from the late effects of radiotherapy and severe nerve pain in the area of her tongue that had been removed, she stopped the speech therapy exercises to make everyday life a little easier with pain management.
She is now however currently working with highly specialist speech therapist Richard Cave who she met though the Mouth Cancer Foundation for which she is a patient ambassador and runs a support group page.
Mr Cave, who is also an adviser to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, posted about the Project Relate android voice app which aims to help people with non-standard speech to communicate more easily with others.
Karen said: “I was excited as I thought this would be perfect for people like myself who are speech impaired.
“Once I got the app up and running and started recording voice cards for the phone to recognize my voice, I got more excited.
“Richard wanted to reach more people, so I have been posting about this to encourage more mouth cancer patients to come forward and give this a go, seeing as it is a free app.
“As a speech therapist, Richard has recognized a lot of the hurdle’s patients like me face, when we go into a cafe and try to order a cappuccino or in a restaurant and order a vegetarian lasagne.
“When we can’t pronounce those important sounds, at least with a voice app trained to understand all our mechanical difficulties with sounds, the voice app can help us with this.
“This app is going to be so important to people like myself.
“I wouldn’t have known about this if it hadn’t been for speech therapists such as Richard wanting to improve our lives.”
Karen Liesching-Schroder also ran the Southend Half Marathon just two weeks after finishing radiotherapy.