|Darth Bear helped me remember that just breathing is enough|
My vocal chord surgery.
I have a virus that causes extraordinary cell growth on my vocal chords. Over the past year or more, my voice had slowly changed, becoming deeper, softer and more problematic in social situations.
I got headaches when I talked too much. I had to push to make myself heard. My neck craned at odd angles to get the sound out. I couldn't attend networking events, parties, restaurants -- because no one could hear me. It was time for a change. I was ready.
The surgery took place on April 10th at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. I must say that my experience with everyone at the hospital was amazing. It all went very smoothly. Gordon came with me and left for work only after I changed into my hospital gown and awaited the anesthesiologist.
When I woke up after the surgery, I immediately knew there was something wrong with my tongue, but I otherwise felt no pain. I just couldn't talk. No sounds at all. Not for two full weeks.
The surgeon said the surgery had gone well, although my tongue was indeed a casualty. It had gotten crushed against my teeth and they'd had to stitch it up. She didn't tell me how painful that would be -- more painful than my throat by far, numb for longer and cause problems with my taste buds. I was probably better off, not knowing.
When Gordon brought me home, I immediately went to bed to sleep off the anesthetic. He later brought me some soup he'd made. It was delicious. I was to eat soup and smoothies for the next two weeks. It was a great diet plan, especially as my taste buds revolted against anything sweet. A sore, swollen tongue and ice cream tasted BAD. Where's the justice?
I also got lovely flowers from the lovely Sarah. So bright and cheerful, they made me happy just looking at them.
My parents visited and I downloaded an iPhone text-to-speech app. This helped with social conversations. I could participate at least a little, though it kind of breaks the flow when everyone has to wait for you to type. For quick things, I tried some charades. My dad, at least, was pretty good at that. My mom made me soup and stewed rhubarb - which tasted AMAZING to my new tastebuds when mixed with plain yogurt.
|Ed's Real Scoop: Cassis, Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate|
The text-to-speech app also helped me renew my book at the library, order food and get a pedicure. Certainly it was not easy. But people were pretty understanding and tried to be helpful. They often thought that I couldn't hear and would try to mime responses back to me, which was sweet and funny at the same time.
After that, I was able to whisper a little. I immediately felt the discomfort when I went overboard, but at home it was starting to be a problem. At some point, communication became difficult and patience was lost. It was frustrating to not be heard. To rely on other, less elegant methods of communication. Nothing is like talking one-on-one. We forget how much we rely on it.
You, my friends, YOU reading this may be hearing my voice in your head and thinking that writing is a pretty good substitute. Now imagine being in the same room with me as I type my responses to you. Not the same thing. I'm a pretty fast typist, but I certainly couldn't keep up with a room of people. So no voice pretty much means no social interaction. Or at least very limited, very awkward social interaction. The longer I had to do without, the more difficult it became.
The internet made things heaps better. I felt connected in a way I never could have 20 years ago. Many people never would have noticed I was gone if I hadn't told them or they hadn't read my updates on Facebook. They communicated with me as they usually do: via email, SMS messages and social media.
It was my closest relationships that suffered: the relationships that are regularly conducted offline, in-person. It was preferable to be by myself. Which gets lonely and boring after a while.
I've been back at work for a full week. The first day back was exhausting. I got a migraine from the effort. But it got better. And while I'm still healing, my voice keeps getting stronger.
I can't wait to hear what I sound like. But I hope I will always remember the lessons I've learned while shutting up: listening is very, very important.