It was in the small print about risks, but who reads small print? So to recover consciousness, after the esophagectomy, in the Intensive Care Unit with only a tiny whisper instead of my normal voice was a huge shock. I had expected a big fight to regain fitness and was ready for anything except this. And I had to chair meetings and speak in public; well that was out and my life was changed.
My speech nerve had been damaged during the delicate and complex operation; nobodies fault, the surgeon was excellent and very experienced and of course very concerned. He couldn't promise that my voice would ever come back, but had never known a patient that hadn't eventually recovered their voice in similar circumstances. Nevertheless it was a very bad time, really terrible, far worse than any other side effect, not knowing if it would ever return and not being able to make myself heard. During this time the Phone Help Line, to whom I whispered my despair, was a life saver. Thank you so much.
It took ages to get an appointment with Speech Therapy who eventually taught me all sorts of things I never knew about my larynx. I tried to be patient, did the voice exercises and the months went by. And then gradually, so gradually the nerve slowly grew back and the voice began to return. And then one day I could actually sing quite loudly in the bathroom; what joy - my wife was not quite so sure!
Today, exactly a year after the esophagectomy my voice is as strong as ever and I sing rather more than I used to, reaching high and low notes with ease. In fact I'm thinking about joining a choir. So to anyone with the same problem: Hang in there, be patient and have faith in nature's power to restore the damage. In nearly every case it just needs time.