‘Are you losing your voice?’ ‘Have you got a sore throat?’ Questions to that effect I have to listen to on a daily basis. And as much as I want to shout ‘F*** off!’ after being asked for the fifth (and not last time) of the day, I can’t. Often it is hard to keep the professional head on when you are constantly asked to explain why you sound like Bonnie Tyler crossed with Darth Vadar. I guess that comes with my job. Being a Dental Hygienist means seeing a string of people on a daily basis. And this leads to a string of questions being asked on a daily basis.
During my first major surgical procedure in 2004, the cricoid plastic (a bit of cartilage stuck into my windpipe to expand it), the nerve which supplies my right vocal cord was damaged. This has led to that cord becoming paralysed, which in turn is making my voice sound croaky and quiet. I cannot shout, speak loudly, noisy environments are a killer as no one is able to hear me when I speak, but what personally gets me the most is the loss of my singing voice. But more on that later.
I can appreciate very much that people are interested and of course, for all they know, I could have been out boozing all night. When I mention what it actually is that I have many become slightly embarrassed. This would bring me back to the grim sense of humour you develop with a chronic Illness. I try to lighten up the mood with the odd joke. I’d say something along the lines of ‘my male patients like it‘ (which brings to mind that one of my bosses has made a point he hoped it would stay like that as he found it rather appealing…….), or I’d say something like ‘if you think it is good because I can’t shout at men I have to say, when I am pissed off I start throwing frying pans straight away as I can’t shout DUCK‘. I think the one that gets the most laughs is the ‘well, if dentistry doesn’t work out I always have the phone business to fall back on‘ (probably more lucrative as well…….)
Generally I have no problem speaking openly about this condition (I’m writing a public blog on it……) but dear God, I would just so love to punch something at times when every other patient who walks through the door asks about my voice. Doing the explaining is the tedious bit. And partially because you are always reminded that you are indeed ‘not normal’. By that I by no means mean a bit loopy in the head. And I don’t see myself as drastically ill. But it shows you that things used to be different. And it shows it time and time again.
As mentioned, the worse thing for me personally is losing my singing voice. It is something I have always enjoyed doing, singing in the youth and school choir and even went for singing lessons. Noooooo, I never had pop star ambitions. But I enjoyed it, just like anyone enjoys a hobby. Yes, I know, I should be grateful to be able to breath blah blah blah… (I AM grateful I can breath, don’t get me wrong!!!) I have heard it all. And I tell myself all that as well. But can you imagine what it would feel like being more or less forced to give up something you love doing? That circumstance was completely out of my control. The interesting thing is, I allowed myself to be pulled into ignoring the fact that I miss my voice. I convinced myself that it was a small price to pay. And yes, I guess it is. But why do some people think that a circumstance like that is easily brushed aside? We all moan about the most trivial things and make it into a massive problem. Yet, something that is taken away from you without you wanting it should easily be consoled with ‘yeah, you can breath’….
Yes, I can breath (more or less at the moment anyway). And I am grateful for that. But I miss my old voice. I miss being able to sing. That was my outlet. And I haven’t found a substitute since. I am angry that this ‘disease’ has forced me to live with this croaky, hoaresy, quiet voice, making it a struggle for me to communicate properly when surrounded by noise. It annoys me (at times) being asked the same question over and over and over again. And giving the same answers over and over and over again. And cracking the same jokes over and over and over again. I am tired of having to understand that people don’t understand, don’t know, and don’t mean anything by their questions.
Anyway, enough moaning. There is only so much that is healthy on a daily basis.