Pam’s Survivor Story
Pam Tondreau is a survivor of thyroid cancer. Today, she is singing and acting, and is back on the stage after losing her voice a few years ago. She was first diagnosed with cancer in 2013. After radiation, Pam was having ongoing issues with speaking and swallowing. She reached out to Ian Bristol, MD, a radiation oncologist at Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute in Scarborough. He referred her to Speech Language Pathology at Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, which is part of the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network.
The program is unique for Maine, and the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network provides coordinated care with patients at different locations. “We asked Pam ‘what do you want to be able to do with your voice,’” said Michael Towey, speech language pathologist. ”She said sing."
Towey used a procedure called pharyngeal manometry that allowed Pam to see which part of the throat needed strengthening by inserting a tube through her nose and down through the throat. From there, she performed different exercises based on her needs. Pam’s swallowing functionality improved over time, along with her voice.
Pam used telemedicine for some of her appointments with the team and learned new exercises to strengthen her voice. Pam’s determination and willingness to reach out and understand her options is the reason why she sings today. She advocates for second opinions and finding the right clinician, plus getting screened. After months of progress, she returned to singing at important events. She auditioned for the Freeport Players and earned a place in several skits in 2018.
Pam spoke up and found her voice again on stage. She added, “it has been motivating and fun to get back in with people that share a common interest. I have more work ahead, but now I have a voice to work with.”