I was thirty-one when I first lost my voice. I whispered for over a year and a half, from October of 2011 to April of 2012. I was diagnosed with Chronic Laryngitis and was treated with two rounds of steroids and four rounds of antibiotics. After my voice did not return I was referred to a Nose, Ear, and Throat Specialist for further examination.
By September of 2012, I had a Micro-Laryngoscopy to strip and burn the true vocal cords and the Larynx. I had abnormal growths on both my vocal cords and my Larynx that had been pinned open for months by them and was restricting my ability to speak and project any type of sound.
After, my results were negative from all the biopsies that had been taken. My doctors followed me with check-ups to monitor any changes in my voice after I was put on voice rest for three weeks.
Six months later I would have a second Micro-Laryngoscopy and Biopsies for more growths that had developed within my Larynx and true vocal cords again. I woke up from the second surgery with a high pitch ear ringing that I still hear every day and all day long. This time I was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma Stage two on the larynx and True Vocal Cords in April of 2013.
I was thirty-two years old at the time and a full-time mother, college student, and a server. My Mother moved up here from Raleigh, NC to help my family take care of my kids and me during my battle with cancer.
I would have seven weeks of radiation, five times a week, from July of 2013 to August of 2013. The day I went in to get fitted for the mask I was alone and thought, "this is no big deal." I told my husband there was no need for anyone to accompany me. I had a complete emotional meltdown while I was being fitted for the mask.
The mask isn’t even bad. It is what the mask represented for me. I couldn’t run or hide. This was real and I was going to have to deal with it.
After the first three visits, my treatments went quicker and quicker. My last day of treatment was August 23, 2013 and I was really proud of myself when I received a certificate. I still have the mask as well.
October 16, 2013 was the last day I ever sang a song or heard the sound of my natural voice. I lost my voice and became pale and sick. I couldn’t hold down any fluid and when I saw my Radiation Doctor for a checkup she was extremely concerned for my well-being and referred me to the James Cancer Center.
After being evaluated by the Cancer Team I was on the surgical table within four hours. I had a tumor that was suffocating my airway and, if My Radiation Doctor would not have sent me to the James Cancer Center, I may not be here today to share my story with you. I woke up with a tracheotomy and spent eight days in the James Cancer Center and Halloween.
Between October 2013 and November 2013 I would have several false positive biopsies from all the radiation treatments I received over the previous summer. The Medical Board at The James and my wonderful Doctor would not do a full Laryngectomy until he knew for sure I still had cancer.
My Doctor and his team did everything they could within their power to save my Larynx and Vocal Cords during my horrific battle. My age was quite the shocker to the staff at the James Cancer Center and to most people I have spoken with about my specific type of cancer.
On November 21, 2013, I would have a seven hour surgery and have a full Laryngectomy with a skin flap and a one-way valve to voice and still have verbal communication. I woke up with a nasal feeding tube, five drains, sixty-two staples, and a permanent stoma. I spent eleven days at the James Cancer Center and, within my stay, I also spent Thanksgiving with them as well.
The first five days was really rough I woke up with a pounding in my ears that is still present today along with the ear ringing that has been with me since 2013.
Since my surgery I have been cancer free and I have adapted to being a full Lary pretty well. I am working on my second degree with Psychology and Nursing and I am still a server and a bartender. I am hoping to one day work at a Cancer Unit helping other cancer patients’ with their specific cancer journeys.
I have good days and bad days but, for the most part I try to keep going and I don’t allow my Stoma to dictate or restrict how I live my life or enjoy it.