If I recently met you at a networking event, you noticed that I don’t have much of a voice right now!
Curious about what’s going on with my voice? Well, here’s the back story…
It started in early March 2014. I was at a 2-day Christine Kane mastermind retreat in Asheville, NC with one of my clients and I just couldn’t get comfortable. I had a catch between my shoulder blades and it was extremely uncomfortable and distracting! Needless to say, I wasn’t in much of a chatty mood, which was very disappointing because my client was introducing me as her “lifesaver” and bragging about me – it was an ideal opportunity to meet potential clients. 🙁
Before the end of the 2nd day, I had called home to get the next available appointment with my chiropractor! One of the other retreat attendees also practiced some Reiki on me which helped a little. Over the next 10 days, I had 3 chiropractor adjustments, another full Rieki session, and a deep tissue massage – all of which eased the catch between my shoulders somewhat but left me with a tingling/prickling sensation down my right arm into my thumb. At that point, my chiropractor referred me to a spinal specialist. Dr. Chitale had removed a cyst from my husband’s spine 10 years ago so I knew and trusted him.
Well, the MRI clearly showed two herniated discs in the cervical area (at the base of the neck.) The discs are small “pillows” which keep the vertebra from rubbing against each other. When they herniate, the filling leaks out – and in my case, it was pushing on the spinal cord and the nerve running down to my right arm. The “fix” was to operate and replace the disc with a bone piece which serves as a “spacer” between the vertebra. Then they add a metal plate to ensure the vertebra and bone pieces don’t move. They go in from the front to get to the spine. It would be out-patient surgery so I wouldn’t even be admitted to the hospital. Sounded pretty easy-peasy to me!
I was looking forward to my April 10th surgery – I couldn’t wait for the tingling and pricking sensations to go away! And I was confident that I would breeze through recovery and be back to my business in a week, two at the most. When I told the anesthesiologist that just before surgery, she looked at me like I was crazy – and later on, I understood why.
My surgery went really well, and my husband stayed home for a couple days and brought me everything my heart desired. I was ensconced in a comfortable chair with my laptop and the TV remote. I took my pain meds, binge-watched House of Cards, sat in on Jennifer Lee‘s 10-day Telesummit, and waited for my voice to come back. After 5 days, I was off the pain meds. At 2 weeks, I could drive and I was working on client projects. I even got a new client during the 3rd week! But I still couldn’t talk. Dr. Chitale had mentioned before the surgery that it wasn’t unusual for patients to have some temporary voice loss because they had to move the nerve over to get to the spine. But 2 and then 3 weeks wasn’t my idea of “temporary.” At the 4-week point, he said “I’ve got 30 years experience and, trust me, your voice will return! The nerve had to be moved during the operation and it has to recover. Wait till 6 weeks after surgery and you’ll see. ”
Well, I decided to get a second opinion so I saw an ENT (Ear, Nose, & Throat) specialist. He looked at my vocal cords with a scope and announced “Your right vocal cord is paralyzed and it could be 6-12 MONTHS before you have you voice back.” When I teared up, he looked surprised and asked me if I was alright! Uh, no!! How do I talk to my clients when my voice is no louder than a whisper?
So, I had a pity party for a couple days and ate some chocolate cake. Then I resumed working…
My business coach observed that I seemed to have gotten a lot more accomplished during the period up to and after the surgery than I had during a similar length of time earlier in the year. Then she introduced me to the concept of “Driving Needs” – experiences that each of us are compelled to have, and which we will get through negative means if we don’t experience them through positive means. Like the way a child will misbehave to get attention (even if the attention is punishment) if they don’t get their attention need met from behaving well. We agreed that my 3 top Driving Needs were Challenges, Independence, and Recognition. So when faced with this health challenge, I rose to the occasion. I can’t help it – it’s one of my Driving Needs!
I continue to view my ongoing voice limitation as a challenge. I’ve gotten a new headset with an amplifier to make it easier for people to hear me on the phone (and so I don’t have to work as hard to be heard!) I’ve started voice therapy to learn how to get the most out of my voice as the nerve heals and my voice returns. I take paper and pen with me to networking events and restaurants where there is so much noise I can’t be heard. And I printed my “Elevator Speech” out so I can hand it to people I meet at networking events. These all seem to be helping me cope while I wait.
But I am also trying some unconventional healing alternatives…
Even if each of these approaches only helps a little, the sooner I get my full voice back, the better!