Cancer survivor learns to talk again, urges smokers to quit
Retiree appears in music video helmed by ITE College West to discourage the young from picking up habit
For over 40 years since he was 17, Mr Mohanadas Pillai had been smoking 40 cigarette sticks a day.
The 71-year-old retiree quit only when he was diagnosed with stage 4 laryngeal cancer in 2013. It is a type of throat cancer that occurs when the cells lining the larynx or voice box become malignant.
To stop the cancer growth, Mr Pillai underwent a laryngectomy, the removal of his larynx.
And for nearly a year after, he was unable to speak at all.
But that changed when he went for a voice restoration procedure in 2014, where doctors inserted an artificial larynx (also known as a tracheoesophageal voice prosthesis, a device placed in the wall between the trachea and oesophagus) so that he could learn to talk again.
He told The New Paper: "I felt so frustrated. Every day, I was praying to get my voice back."
Nearly eight years on and after many gruelling hours of speech therapy, Mr Pillai is today not only an articulate speaker, but also a senior member of Singapore Cancer Society's (SCS) New Voice Club, a support group for laryngeal cancer patients and survivors.
It was through the group that he heard about the Hear My Voice music video, which he immediately agreed to be a part of.
Helmed by staff and students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College West with support from SCS, it is part of a campaign to discourage youth from smoking.
The music video has been in the works since December 2018 but filming was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It will be launched on SCS' social media platforms today, in celebration of World No Tobacco Day, which falls on May 31.
Mr Pillai appears at the end, sharing his cancer journey and appealing to smokers to quit the habit.
The music video's lead vocalist, 20-year-old student Narmada Kumaran, was excited to be a part of "something so meaningful".
She said she cannot imagine losing her voice as she sings in the rock band co-curricular activity at ITE College West.
She told TNP: "I was really drawn in by the lyrics, by how real (they were). (The songwriters) did not sugarcoat anything, and I appreciate that it was so genuine."
For Mr Pillai, who regrets not quitting smoking earlier, this campaign hits close to home, and he hopes his story will raise awareness about the harmful effects of smoking.
He said: "To other patients, I want to tell them to be brave. Do not give up.
"And to the youth, I want to tell them that uncle Mohan is a living example. Do not expose yourself to the risk - it is not worth it."