Finding His Voice
Doctor learns to speak again after losing his voice-box to cancer.
Doctor Itzhak Brook used to have a voice that was strong and powerful, a voice that could give direction and guidance, a voice that could save the lives of children.
"My voice was my tool and the way I dealt with the world before and I really always took it for granted," he says.
That voice was taken from him by oral cancer, which ravaged his throat and larynx, leaving him with a life changing choice: Remove the voice box or die from cancer.
"At that moment, I was so wanting this cancer out of me that to pay the price of losing my vocal chords was worth it. The other choice was to risk almost certain death," he says.
Brook says he was so focused on living that he never stopped to think about what he was losing.
He's a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University Medical Center.
His voice is his delivery method, the way he communicates with his patients and colleagues.
Now he is left with barely a whisper.
"It was very difficult for me because initially at the hospital I was voiceless," he says. "I couldn't speak. I couldn't express my emotions. I could not use the same clarity I could use before."
He sought the advice of otolaryngologist Dr. Bruce Davidson.
Davidson says there was still hope.
Brook could have a voice, but it would be different.
Dr. Brook got a prosthesis for his larynx.
It helps his reroute the air in the throat so that he can create sound.
While it doesn't sound like a typical voice, it's allowed him to practice medicine again.
"As time goes on, I learn to utilize my voice in a better way and I am able to verbalize almost everything," he says.
With speech therapy and practice, his voice has improved, but he still faces challenges.
Talking on the phone is difficult and he often feels like he has to stay silent in crowded places.
Despite what he's lost, brook says he fully appreciates what he has gained.
"I always look at what would have been the alternative and when I see my children and my grandchildren, I know that I made the right choice," he says.