After Surgery

The Story Behind my Valentine’s Day Gift

For those that remember, I gave my wife a stuffed bear for Valentine’s Day this year. We had agreed that we would not give each other anything. But I surprised her anyway. Here is the story behind the bear.

I struggled a long time with recording my voice. For several months I pondered whether it would be a good or bad thing to look back on. Part of me wanted to forget the past and embrace the new me and the other wanted something to reminisce on what it was like before. Well, as you can probably tell I decided to record my voice for my wife.

I was diagnosed in October with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (ACC) and by November we knew that I was going to need a laryngectomy. From then on the conversation started about whether or not I wanted to record my voice. I went back and forth for the longest time. What do you say? How do you say it? How do you say something that you can “never” say again?

How did I come up with the idea?

I have to give two different people credit for this because they both presented the idea at two different times. They both suggested that I go to Build-a-Bear and record my voice. The first person was a co-worker and the other one was a fellow neck breather, that I had met through a support group, who had done it for her daughter.

In the beginning of  December I finally decided to pull the trigger so I went online to the Build-A-Bear website and ordered a bear off of there website. My original plan was to give it to my wife for Christmas. This would also allow her to have the bear while I was in the hospital and have something to hold while I was recovering and not with her at night. Well, unfortunately the bear never came. I sent the company an email the week before Christmas asking where my bear was. Well, apparently you have to call them to setup the recording. Easy enough, I thought, I was at work and trying to figure out what to say. I wanted it to be short but express my personality and say those three important words. So I broke it down into three parts.

“I love you, Caitlin!”

This was the easiest part of the entire short phrase. After all, I wanted to be able to tell my wife that I loved her. I wanted to make sure that I included her name. I felt that it was important that she heard me say it.

“You’re my number 1!”

This is a Star Trek reference for those that watch The Next Generation. But since we are “co-captains” we both get to say it to each other! I was not always Caitlin’s number 1 though. I will never forget the first time I told her that she was my number one, years before we were married. I naturally expected her to tell me that in return. To my surprise she said that her parents were her number 1! I was a little hurt but I knew how much her parents met to her and how awesome they both are (Hi Doug and Mary Jo!). After a few more times of me saying it to her she was able to return the saying back to me and I think that was another turning point in our relationship. We had both already told each other that we loved each other. But now we were showing that we cherished each other above all others. I wanted to make sure she could still hear me say that.

“Do de do de doooo de dooooooo!”

This one is by far the hardest of the three to explain. It comes from a State Farm commercial where this young couple is remodeling a home (and no we are not getting paid by them for advertising). There is a song playing in the background of the commercial and after some research, we found out it was the song Bushel and a Peck by Doris Day. I am pretty sure Caitlin being her quirky self, started reciting it after it came on the TV a few times. Then every time the commercial would come on, we would both look at each other, sing the phrase and laugh. Near the ending you will hear the phrase; Its a catchy tune! Our version is quite off from the original but you get the idea! I wanted to include something goofy so we could always laugh and smile when it’s played.

I knew that it was already close to Christmas and that it would be a pretty low chance that I would not get it but I was confident that I would have it before my surgery and before the new year.  As we were nearing my surgery date time got away from me and I was not able to follow up with the Build-A-Bear customer support again. I was pretty bummed that my wife never got her bear before the surgery. During the surgery I had enough to worry about so I put it on the back burner until the middle of January. I sent them again an email on January 14th for an update on my order. On January 18th I finally got an email back saying:

hey Jeremy

Thank you for responding. I took a look into your order and your voice recording is successfully been attached to the order! Yay! Your order should begin to ship in the next few days. Thank you for shopping with Build-A-Bear!

“I took a look into your order and your voice recording is successfully been attached to the order! Yay! Your order should begin to ship in the next few days. Thank you for shopping with Build-A-Bear!”

“Have a pawsome day,”

I was so happy! After all it had been a month since ordering the bear. January 24th came around and I never received an tracking number or confirmation that the order had been placed. I sent them an email and this was the reply:

Dear Jeremy,

Thank you for contacting us. Unfortunately, we are unable to process your online order W0117356. Due to a systems error, our Personalized Record Your Voice program did not link to your order in time.

Therefore, our online ordering system canceled your order. When an order has been canceled because of a systems error you will not be charged/billed for the items.

We never want to disappoint our Guests for any reason. Our goal is 100% satisfaction, not just with our products, but with our online store experience as well.

If you need assistance in placing an order, we will be happy to assist you over the phone.  Please give us a call at 1-877-789-2327.


So there is one saving grace to all of this. I was smart or lucky enough, not sure which one, to use my work phone. Lucky for me, I manage the IT at my company. I traced the call from the phones system and was able to pull the call that I made to Build-A-Bear.

I replied back that I was no longer able to record my voice and asked if there was any way that I could send in a file of my voice recording that I wanted.

This was the reply:

Hello Jeremy,

Thank you for contacting us.  We can not set up voice recording by email.  

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Sorry for the inconvenience? After a month of trying to get this bear ordered for my wife I finally hit a dead end. Or so I thought.

Good thing we have the internet and a thing called Amazon. I ended up typing away in the Amazon search bar for an alternative. To my relief I was able to find a suitable replacement! I ordered the bear off of Amazon and with my Prime account I was able to get it in two days, with free shipping! When I got the bear I was not sure how I was going to transfer the voice recording from a file on my computer to the bear. When it arrived I took apart the bear and found a single voice recording device inside. I was hoping there was some way for me to copy the sound file over the the recording device but there was not. I ended up playing the sound through my speakers to the recording device and it worked!

After all the headache and heartache, I was able to present this gift to my wife for Valentine’s Day. It was a little late, but seeing how much it meant to my wife was priceless.

I decided to record the moment I gave my wife the bear. Here is the entire video; she had no idea I was recording! 😉 And check out my awesome electro-larynx skills!


A little bit about me: A neck breather. I grew up in Spring, Texas and graduate from Texas Tech University in German and Management Information Systems. I married the love of my life Caitlin after meeting her in Lubbock, Texas. We shortly moved to Houston, Texas where we currently live. On October 26th, 2017 I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. In the coming months I will have to get a laryngectomy to remove by voice box. I started this blog with the encouragement of my wife to inform my family and friends of my progress, and to share my journey as I become a laryngectomee.

2 comments on “The Story Behind my Valentine’s Day Gift

  1. This is the sweetest thing ever! I love the hidden camera. I’m completely floored by how y’all are taking this in stride with humor and love. What a beautiful moment. Jeremy, your laugh and smile are contagious! And your skills are on point. Caitlin “I really didn’t get you anything!” And then at the very end. “I got you cookies” lol you’re too cute.

  2. Fred and Jane Deis

    You two are so very cute!! We are so impressed by your strength and faith that all will be good, no matter what you have to get through. Caitlin, it is a privilege to have you in our family; Jeremy, you certainly know how to make her smile. We love you both so much. G-Ma and G-Pa Deis

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