I always hated charades. I stunk at it. And I still do.
I would have made a rotten mime.
Forced down time.
That’s what surgery brings.
This time it brings silence as well- for at least the next 5 days.
I kept moving so fast through the last few months that maybe I chose to ignore the problem growing inside me. I mean, ignore it in the sense of not writing about it too often. Of course, I’m not foolish enough to ignore it…
It was last spring, right about this time that I started to feel a little hoarse. I blamed it on spring allergies. Except it never went away.
It always struck me as odd because it came at a time during the year I was teaching less, and testing more so there was less of a strain on my voice.
Once spring turned into summer, I had to accept “spring allergies” wouldn’t work.
I searched for an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor in Manhattan, in my network. I read bios, and surgical articles, because everything seems to end with surgery anyway. So – I find its best to pick a good surgical record to start. Negative, or realistic? You can decide for yourself.
The first appointment I met the speech pathologist and the doctor. Both took baseline screens. I was told at initial consult in July that there was a “nodule” and a “striking zone lesion” on the opposite side. I was told it did not seem “typical” of the nodules teachers usually get, and I was told at that initial visit I would likely need surgery in the future.
But, first I was sent to vocal therapy. And while I scoffed at the idea, I know now how valuable the experience was. I have always sent my daughter to therapy when needed, and marveled at the success I saw with OT, PT, and Speech. But somehow for me, it was a tougher pill to swallow. At first.
I think when I wrote about this last I had connected with the Vocal Therapist, a gem of a woman, and a skilled class act in Speechless – October 2016 And then there was a quick entry here Laugh Out Loud – November 2016, Basically, the therapy helped enough to reduce the swelling, and reveal more issues. In October I was told definitively that surgery was in the future plan. I was told to continue to practice what I had learned in vocal therapy. I was told to rest my voice when I wasn’t teaching, and to employ a slew of new speech strategies and exercises. I continued Vocal Therapy through December. It has been no easy task, and I am FAR from perfect at it, but I can say I’ve made improvements at least a third of the time. Not too bad for a few months of modifying something I’ve been doing for 42 years!
The kids at school are used to my “tour guide” microphone, which helps me resist the urge to overextend my voice. We got in a routine, as you do when faced with a new obstacle. There is no other choice really, because as my friend says, we just “keep swimming.”
The plan was for me to return to the doctor in early April to set up surgery for the summer.
Except plans change. And it was getting a little hard to breathe. I felt like I had asthma symptoms more often than I am used to, and almost like a constant feeling of fullness in my throat.
I called the doctor to move the surgery up. We set February 20th as the date. Sometimes I just have to trust my instincts. Except I got a call that the OR was closed on February 20th and I had to take either February 17th or wait till March 3rd. And for a hot couple of moments I entertained February 17th. Except that “Jeans for Rare Genes 3” was set for February 19th. And, me being on total vocal rest while we entertained 120 people wasn’t a great idea.
I headed to see the doctor on January 31st and he found a new problem. There was now a very large polyp extending over the vocal cords. It was big and it had not been there in October. I asked about the likelihood of it being benign and I was told he was 99% sure it was all benign. I liked the odds, but still he agreed waiting till the summer wasn’t a great plan. We settled on a surgical date of March 3rd. Carefully calculating the number of days I’d need to be off of work before my return, we established it should still work.
Over the last few weeks I felt increasingly short of breath during mundane tasks. I stayed calm. I decreased my daily activity and moved a little slower. I knew we could make it, and we did.
So, “Jeans for Rare Genes 3,” went off as a successful event, and yesterday morning, on the first anniversary of the death of my beloved Pop, I headed to NYU to have my surgery. I left with the prayers of great friends and family, and the intense protection of one of my Guardian Angels.
The surgery went as surgery does. It’s strange how it’s not nearly as anxiety provoking as it once was. The whole routine has a wild familiarity, from the intake to the recovery room. I don’t get lost anymore and anticipate their words and requests. It’s odd, and a bit strange this job of #beatingcowdens. I walk dutifully to the OR and get settled under my warm blankets. I expect the IV, and the burning of the anesthesia. I know the mask will be the last thing I remember before the recovery room.
And its amazingly less nerve wracking when the surgery is for you and not your child.
So the biggest polyp had increased drastically in size since January 31st. It’s gone, and so are the other issues. We wait on pathology and a follow-up next Thursday. I’m on strict voice rest until Thursday at least, which requires me to really isolate. Talking to my family is reflex. And as I said before I stink at charades.
So we carry our phones. I put my fitbit on rest. It’s off an in a drawer. I’ve got my laptop in my room. I’m eating my Isagenix and diffusing protective oils. I’m organizing my brain- a little.
I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. I’m trying to address one day at a time. This is not my strength. It is in my long term planning that I strengthen my resolve and focus best on
For now it’s been about a day. I slipped on about 20 words total. Not great, but I never claimed to be perfect. The funny thing about talking is you don’t realize how much you do it till you can’t.
The laughing is even harder. My husband is funny. It’s one of the things I love most about him. How lucky and I as I heal to lament that my daughter wants to talk to me, and my husband makes me laugh? I’ll hide from my biggest blessings a few more days. #gratitude