One year ago we Tanpo had surgery/a biopsy for a growth on one of his vocal cords. Today I was supposed to have an appointment with the ENT who operated on him for a (benign) bump on one of my own cords. The question is whether or not she will recommend additional ST or surgery. I won’t know until I reschedule my appointment since I’ve already got to see 3 different docs this week (just ongoing care check-ins) and Tanpo suggested (strongly) that I cancel today’s appointment because having 4 this week would just be too much fun. 🙂 I am, however, glad that I will be treated by Dad’s ENT. Mommy feels slightly better about leaving me momentarily unattended if I am already in a hospital, and when Dr. G came out of surgery to update us on Dad I was alone since Mommy had stepped outside. Dr. G gave me the best news we’d had in a long time when she told me that the growth was benign.
In my writing you’ll generally hear me refer to 5 Hospitals. That’s because I have not included the very first hospital I went to on the list since I did not spend the night there. I am, however, thankful for what they did for me, especially for how they called Mom and Dad. So to be perfectly accurate, I’ve been to 6 hospitals in the last ~18 months, and this morning (Wed, the 24th) we’re going to the 7th. Of course I assumed if we were going to a new hospital we’d be going for me, but today I am playing the role of “concerned family member” and accompanying Tanpo as he goes in for his surgery/biopsy.
I’ve often thought about how it would feel to go back to a hospital. One might well assume that I can’t stand the hospital and go to great lengths to avoid one. It’s kind of strange, but I look back on my 2.5 months as an inpatient with a mixture of vague fondness and less ambiguous gratitude. After all, I look at those hospitals as the places where a whole bunch of complete strangers took good care of me and I began to heal.
As I first began to understand what had happened to me but was still mentally hazy I mouthed the words, “Help me,” a lot. I thought I was saying them but Mom recently told me there was no sound accompanying the lip movement. I also thought I said/mouthed this very often – to anyone who came into my room – but since Mom doesn’t recall this it must have been a mental refrain since I couldn’t really talk yet.
Once I could talk, I wasted no time in seeking advice on my condition. My NP (Nurse Practitioner) came to check on me one morning and I asked him, “What do I do?”
“What do you do?” he repeated my words and processed the breadth of what I was asking. I think that was the first time I’d spoken to him, so it might have been a bit of a surprise. After a slight pause he explained that this situation was like I had had a huge fire in my house. It had been extinguished but now I had to clear the residual smoke and lift the excess water from the fire hoses. The extent of my recovery, he continued, would be determined by how much smoke I cleared and how much water I was able to lift.
Most of the smoke is gone, but I’m still trying to lift water. In response to the time I looked at Mom and mouthed, “Help me,” she told me that “all these people” – she nodded to the hospital’s hallway – were here to help me, so I should feel good about that.
So this morning we’re going back to the place where highly trained professionals know how to help people. I hoped the next time I’d be going to a hospital would be to visit a new baby (I’m waiting with baited breath for the new S girl and the new Tan boy), but our visit is not marked by such a happy occasion. Nevertheless, it’s good that our visit is going to get the help we need.
This is what happened next:
23. (Option A) “Maybe I should learn sign language.”
I refused to sit at this table during a coffee break at the hospital yesterday morning, but when it was time for lunch the crowd weakened my resolve and I exercised my rights as a disabled person and parked myself here.
Dad does not have cancer. His PDG was able to excise the offending lump entirely from his right vocal chord (Thanks, PDG!) Dad will be on vocal rest for five days during which he is supposed to maintain a strict silence. He will then return to Therapy and when they are satisfied with his speech technique/abilities they’ll give him permission to exit the vocal rest period.
I am going to try my best to remember that Tanpo is supposed to be quiet for the next few days and not talk to him in a way that will invite a verbal response. My own Speech Therapist here in Maryland (ST3) was a little troubled by how often my lips could move but no sound would come out. “Maybe I should learn sign language,” I mused one day.
“No,” she immediately vetoed my proposal, “Use your voice!”
When I sat down in her office after OT, ST3 would wave her hands around the room and tell me solemnly, “You have entered the ‘No Whispering’ Zone.” Whispering, you see, is actually a form of vocal misuse. See? I totally listened in Speech Therapy.
One of the hardest parts of the therapy experience was explaining to everyone (who was naturally and very kindly concerned) that I’ve always had a soft voice and it has never hindered my progress in school, work, or life in general. I know it’s weird, but I was asked regularly (probably once a week or every two weeks) if I had laryngitis. “No, no,” I’d assure the person asking, “This is just my normal speaking voice.”
I eventually convinced ST3 that I really was comfortable with the volume of my voice and so declined to work on it anymore. This was after she’d established a habit of hunting down my next therapist to inform him/her that I was not allowed to whisper during my next session, either. So ST3 ran a tight ship (but I wore her down!). After I didn’t have to “yell” into the decibel-meter spider anymore I could just focus on the brain-teasers etc. ST3 gave me, and I quite liked them. The sense of relief that attended the end of my volume training was marked.
I felt the same relief yesterday when we got the good news, except it was so much better. I wrote two versions of this post (Options A and B) and this is the one I so desperately wanted to go with. But even though we got good news there are so many people out there who got bad news…this week…this month…this year. If the doctor mentions the word “cancer” in the same sentence as one of your family member’s names your blood runs cold. I know since that’s what happened when Dad had cancer (nasalpharyngeal) in 2003.
At that point we were all blissfully unaware of what it was going to take to get from point A (diagnosis) to point B (completion of treatment). Dad’s body was changed forever (the scars/burns from the radiation were readily visible), and our hearts were changed forever, too. The one thing that didn’t change was God’s plan for our family – that’s an idea I got from JCJ’s mom, R, who was paralyzed from the chest down after a coffee bean truck struck her vehicle in rural Ethiopia many moons ago. So for everyone out there who is dealing with news they did not want to hear, I’m sorry this is happening to you…and I’m sending you a hug.