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Some call cancer a thief. It can steal a lot of things: hair, appetite, energy and time. For patient Jeff Blaney, it threatened to take his voice.

Even though the Army veteran was a long-time smoker, Blaney was surprised when doctors told him his persistent sore throat was actually larynx cancer, or cancer of the voice box. The diagnosis came right before Christmas last year, thrusting Blaney into the overwhelming world of scans, doctors and decisions. Initially, Blaney agreed surgery would be the best option. It would get the cancer out, but it would come at a cost: surgeons would remove his voice box.

“I cried when I called my wife on the way home from one appointment, saying they want to take my voice away,” said Blaney. But while preparing for the surgery, Blaney couldn’t shake a certain feeling. “What bothered me most is I wouldn’t be able to talk to my wife.”

After meeting with his doctors again, Blaney decided on chemotherapy and radiation instead. While he tolerated chemotherapy well, radiation was a long and painful process. There were days he wanted to quit, but he knew it was worth it to make sure he could continue communicating with his wife.

Free Head and Neck Cancer Screenings:

When: Friday, April 12 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Where: Moffitt Cancer Center, 12902 USF Magnolia Drive Tampa, FL 33612, Head and Neck Clinic (1st floor, Gold Valet area)

All are welcome. No appointment is necessary. For more information call 1-888-663-3488.

While he lost his voice during treatment, it is starting to come back. His cancer has responded well to treatment so far, and Blaney says he has accomplished his main goal. “I so aggressively wanted to save my voice, and I think we have,” he said. “I still cry on the way home, thinking how lucky I am for how I came to Moffitt Cancer Center, the hundred or so people who have worked on my case, all with one thing on their mind: my complete cure.”

April 8 through 12 is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week. Blaney says he would recommend anyone with any symptoms to attend Moffitt’s free head and neck cancer screening. “You shouldn’t wait to be screened,” said Blaney. “I waited. I thought it was just a sore throat that would go away, but it didn’t.”