Saturday, July 28, 2012

The 30,000 mile tune-up

 I must confess that this summer has taken some odd turns. I discovered that I was going to have to get some minor work done on the varicose veins in my right leg because there is a circulation issue there. I also had to get some icky looking moles removed, and then there was the thyroid. I had a cyst on my thyroid drained in May of 2004, and had to go in periodically to have it biopsied for a few years thereafter, but when the surgeon who I had been seeing retired I just kind of stopped getting it checked out. I noticed I was having some issues swallowing back in the spring, but chalked it up to the sinus issues I had battled all school year. I think what really made me realize that there was truly something not right going on was my voice was changing. I had been struggling with tension while singing to the point that I called up my dear friend Heidi to seek professional help. I had so much tension in my neck while I was singing that it was uncomfortable. Then my speech started randomly slurring like I was drunk. I finally realized that the ignore it and it will eventually go away strategy was not going to work this time and made an appointment with my doctor. He informed me that there was a large solid mass on my right thyroid, and referred me to Dr. Carolyn Garner, an endocrinologist/oncologist.

I loved Dr. Garner! She is also a musician, and her mother is a professional opera singer who got her vocal performance degree from UNT. She told me the mass was rather large, and was putting pressure on my esophagus as well as some arteries, and the nerves to my vocal folds causing my phonation/speech issues. Luckily, someone came in and cancelled their surgery while I was in the waiting room for my appointment, and I was given her newly available July 26th spot. The plan was to remove my right thyroid and immediately biopsy it. If it was benign I would get to keep my left thyroid in the hopes that I might not have to take thyroid medication for the rest of my life. If it was cancerous, my entire thyroid would have to be removed, and it would become a completely different situation.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit scared. I knew there was a possibility that I could end up permanently hoarse, and or have a speech impediment. There was also the ever looming possibility that it could be cancer, and no body wants to be diagnosed with cancer regardless of where it is. I feared the loss of my singing voice, but not for performance sake. I do love singing in choirs, and with Praise and Worship, and although I don't have a bad voice it isn't a voice that anyone would pay money to hear. The thought that sucked the wind right from my lungs was realizing that I might lose my vehicle to teach and direct. I love to teach, and I hear I am pretty good at it. I love my choir, and so much joy has come to me through hearing them learn and grow. I can't imagine doing anything else. There is nothing else I would want to do. This is all much easier to discuss now that I know there is a happy ending.

The morning of my surgery I was one unpleasant person. I was frustrated that I couldn't have my coffee. I wanted to work out and my husband got upset and stopped me because he didn't want me to get dehydrated right before I went in for surgery since I couldn't eat or drink anything. This did not help my mood because it was the last work out on the calendar rotation, and I wanted to complete it. I am not claiming that this was a rational thought process.

 I wanted to seem as casual and nonchalant about the whole situation as possible so my kids wouldn't get worried, and there were only a couple of times I didn't succeed with this goal. The dam broke in preop when the nurse told me that when I woke up they would ask me to make a series of vowel sounds to make sure my vocal fold nerves were still functional.  Holy crap! I had my phone with me because the anesthesiologist was going to use it to take pictures of my tumor once it was removed. She was very sweet, and promised that she would intubate me with the smallest tube possible, and that she would be very careful. Intubation was necessary because they were working around my esophagus so they had to make sure I could breath.

I was nervous yet I had peace at the same time. I have awesome family, friends, and church family who are all very loving, supportive, and had covered me in prayer. I received messages all morning from people letting  me know they were thinking about me and praying for me. I would not have been able to deal with this nearly as well a couple of  years ago!

Meanwhile, my boys were having all sorts of fun at the Yanez residence playing in the sprinklers and making crafts so that my mom could be at the hospital too.

I knew as soon as I woke up before anyone even came to talk to me that they had only removed the right thyroid because I was certainly aware of that side of my neck. The recovery nurse was astonished at how well I was talking when I woke up. I was told that I wouldn't be able to talk for a couple of days, and I wasn't even hoarse. She gave me my vowel test which I performed perfectly. I have been blessed with the best case scenario all the way around. It is still uncertain as to whether or not I will have to take thyroid medicine. Only time will answer that. They will begin testing my levels next week.

Here is the not so little devil. It was described as very active with lots of calcification, but not cancerous. I will admit that I underestimated the after effects and recovery just a little bit. I am very sore, and the first day morphine was a bit deceptive. It is still difficult to swallow, and I have not eaten anything but soups and shakes so far. I was told to expect my singing voice to be tricky for a couple of months in that I would probably crack a lot, especially in the upper register. I was also told that I would have to work rebuild projection in general, but I am choosing to believe that when this is all over I will be stronger than I was before this all started. "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" Romans 8:28.

I will end this summer good as new. No more tumor, no more icky moles, and veins on the mend. My 30,000 mile tune-up!

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