vocal surgery

When you get what you want...(sort of) by Kevin Embleton

Surgery to remove the vocal cyst is scheduled for January 24, 2018, or sooner if someone cancels and they can squeeze me in before then. 

Last Thursday I saw an otolaryngologist in Oakland. As he and a young resident entered the room, I was both nervous and excited to finally get some answers. The appointment started out like they usually do... I felt the clock ticking, like I had to convince them of the problem in a couple of minutes or they'd just shuffle me over to speech therapy and call it a day. I brought all of my previous laryngoscopy DVD's and they asked to see my most recent. As they watched the video, they located the cyst and also noticed some asymmetry in the left cord in a still photo.

Without much hesitation, the doctor said he could remove the cyst if I wanted him to, but cannot guarantee 100% that surgery will fix the problem. I was hoping for more clarity than that. However, as I described how the cyst is affecting me and elaborated on my theory, the doctor said, "It's best to trust how you're feeling, especially when it comes to how it practically affects you, and the way you describe it makes sense...". He said it's possible that in certain shapes or during certain kinds of tension, the left cord might brush up against the cyst, causing the paralysis. 

I can't tell you how good it felt to hear him say that. For almost two years the doctors have had no answers other than "you're stressed" or "you have some reflux". I finally found a doctor who listened and was willing to take a closer look. Much to my gag reflex's chagrin, I had them scope me one more time just to make sure things hadn't changed since August. Still there, and more ready to come out than ever.

There is a 10% chance the cyst comes back after they remove it. There is a 1-2% chance things go terribly wrong like they did for Julie Andrews. Recovery will most likely demand 3-4 days of vocal rest and then anywhere from 2-10 weeks for full recovery. The doctor said we won't know exactly how long it will take to recover until we see how surgery goes. Even though I should be able to produce sound within a few days after surgery, singing and talking well could take time. I imagine I might need some more speech therapy, but I'm not sure.

I got what I wanted. Yet, as I processed things over the weekend, I had to reckon with the fact that surgery must be my decision. When something's messed up inside, it's easier to wish for the circumstance where a doctor says, "we have to operate on this in order for things to get better; don't worry, son, I'll fix you up". Take the decision out of my hands, you know? In my case, however, it's totally up to me.

I could probably survive living in this discomfort and even continue singing to some degree, but I think it's worth getting the cyst removed. Still, it's tough not knowing exactly what the outcome will be, and it's easy to be bummed out about the two and a half month wait. If this is what it takes to get better though, a few months of waiting won't really compare to the lifetime of singing I'll hopefully have after the surgery. So now I wait, and figure out how much I can accomplish (or not accomplish) before then.

Thank you so much to those of you who have sat with me, listened to me, prayed for healing, and encouraged me. I didn't realize how alone I felt until last week when I posted that blog. I was in a pretty hopeless space, and your love lifted me. Something shifted inside of me as you reminded me who I am and what's important. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have hope again. Please continue to pray, and I'll talk to ya soon.