My name is Alistair Baillie. I am 68 years old and live in Laguna Beach, California- a paradise.
I have been married for 27 years to my savior wife Jennine and have 2 beautiful daughters, 3 dogs and 1 cat named Balthazar.
In 1965, when I was 18, my family emigrated from Scotland to Canada where I went to University and became a civil engineer.
In 1974, I joined a small startup engineering /architectural in Toronto.
In 1981, I moved to California as part of our west coast expansion- someone had to do it.
Our firm now has 2,700 employees with offices around the globe.
I go to work every day.
In 1996, at the age of 50, my life changed completely.
I was diagnosed with a T3N0 squamous cell carcinoma tumor on the base of my tongue.
After a number of frightening prognoses, I went to MD Anderson in Houston and was treated with radiation (70GY 35 fractions for 7 weeks) avoiding both surgery and chemo.
I had a G tube inserted for nutrition during the treatment and then went back to a normal life for 10 years.
I had survived the cancer.
In 2006, after numerous misdiagnoses, I discovered I was getting pneumonia from aspirating food and drink due to the long term damaging effect of radiation on my swallowing system- the good year bunny that keeps on going.
My epiglottis would not cover my trachea during the swallow.
So, there I was back on the G tube for 5 years.
I continued to work, travel and mastered the art of using a blender to eat and drink though my G tube.
I underwent countless sessions of electric stimulation therapy to try and restore my swallowing with little success.
In 2010, I had a 4th and near fatal pneumonia from aspirating, of all things, my “saliva “.
My lungs had collapsed with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
I was put in an induced coma for 25 days and spent 40 days in the ICU, came out of hospital at 135 lbs. and spent most of 2010 recovering at home.
In 2011, I knew then I would not survive pneumonia – it was only a matter of time.
So, I decided to have a laryngectomy and seal up the connection between my mouth and my lungs.
The up side- not only would I live, but also, I would be able to eat and drink again,
The down side- I would lose my normal voice.
For me, it was a no brainer decision despite many in the medical profession advising me against it.
Laryngectomies were only for people with cancer of the larynx.
So, here I am 4 years later still working, eating and drinking with a whisper for a voice still with my Scottish accent.
I had survived the radiation.
On hindsight, it was a blessing I got the pneumonia.
It forced my hand to have the surgery.
Not being able to eat and drink is a cruel sentence that I would probably have settled on.
Not only do you miss out on the enjoyment of food, but also on the important social interaction that it involves.
I am back in the land of the living.
“Lang may yer lum reek” (a Scottish toast wishing your health, prosperity and happiness)