Recent Research: Glossectomy

Silent Scars Heading copyThe main character of “Silent Scars” has his tongue cut out when he is kidnapped and tortured. Since this novella is about his recovery, I’ve been researching what it’s like to live with a glossectomy. One of the best resources I found was a young man who hosted an Ask Me Anything about his glossectomy due to tongue cancer.

I found that my preconceived notions (thanks to fantasy/history stories where slaves have their tongues cut out to prevent spilling secrets) were completely wrong. It actually is possible to learn how to speak without your tongue, though it takes a lot of speech therapy, and it can still be difficult to be understood, depending on who the person is talking to. My story takes place in 1930s era, so I could have my character undergo this therapy, or not and be accurate. I’m going to elect for him not to, because I’ve always had him mute in my mind, but there are some points where he’d try to make sounds.

The thing I had totally not thought about was how much the tongue is used in eating. It doesn’t just taste, it moves the food around (especially when it falls from between the teeth) and detects if the food is chewed enough to swallow. So, the options are to either eat foods that are soft and easy to swallow, or use something to move the food around for you. But utensils are awkward, since they can’t feel where the food is and if you’ve hooked it or not. The young man in the ask me anything uses his fingers, which leads to stares in restaurants. I’m looking forward to putting this detail in my story, as my character is definitely expected to eat with etiquette, but can no longer.

And of course there’s the psychological effect that goes into the loss of ability, but my character was already suffering from PTSD due to the kidnapping and torture in general, so losing his tongue doesn’t do too much more. However that is what people around him focus on.

So there’s a taste of what has been going into my story. Do you have any questions about glossectomy that I should make sure to cover?

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