My Silent Journey
At 43 years old, I found out I had an aortic aneurysm and needed to have open-heart surgery. Two weeks after the diagnosis, I woke up from surgery and was told that my heart was repaired and would be stronger than it had ever been! I was relieved and grateful, but also concerned when I realized I couldn’t talk! I was reassured that this was normal and temporary, due to a long intubation.
Two days later, however, my voice still hadn’t come back. I grew more concerned and was soon devastated by test results that revealed my left vocal cord was totally paralyzed.
I remember listening to the doctor as he gave me the news and feeling like the walls were closing in around me. My entire life, I’d dreamed of becoming a professional speaker and teacher. But I had put my dreams on hold. I always thought I could pursue them later, once we were more financially stable, after the kids were grown, and when I didn’t feel so tired and stressed out. But year after year went by, and my dreams didn’t seem to be getting any closer.
My recovery from the open-heart surgery was difficult, and without the ability to talk, I felt totally alone and trapped inside my head. Even though my physical heart was healing, my emotional heart was still very broken. I kept trying to rebuild my life, but it was like rebuilding a puzzle with missing pieces and I couldn’t see the big picture. I returned to work, trying to “make it work,” but the stress and lack of human interaction left me physically and emotionally vulnerable. A month after I returned to work, I developed bronchitis and vocal cord ulcers, and had to take leave again. I received an email the next day telling me I had been terminated. It was official; life as I knew it was over.
I remember making my bed one morning shortly after losing my job and having a very loud conversation in my head. “I have no job, no income, and no medical insurance, and I can’t go out and get another job without a voice! I can’t believe this is my life!”
Suddenly, I heard God’s voice say, “I know. I saved you from your old life, and I have something new in store.” I realized then that I had not been truly living for a very long time.
Through this time of searching, I realized how my entire identity and value as a person had been totally dependent on the approval of others—to the point that I had actually postponed the MRI that detected my aneurysm for seven months, worried that I was just too busy, and my work would be unhappy if I missed a day!
The life I was desperately trying to get back to was the one that had nearly destroyed me. I decided to stop trying to restore my old life and start creating a new one. I started journaling and creating art. I practiced gratitude and began focusing on the countless blessing that surrounded me. I forced my mind to take my thoughts captive, continually changing them from negative to positive. I was finally healing, both physically and emotionally.
My friends and family saw the changes in me and were inspired. They asked me to show them how to get creative, too. I began teaching collage art. I started taking pictures of my art collages and turned them into greeting cards, which I began selling. Before I knew it, I had become an artist and a teacher, and started my own little business online! My circumstances hadn’t changed—I had.
One day I received a phone call from a stranger who knew of a doctor he thought could help. One year after my open-heart surgery, I was back in the operating room in hopes of getting a new voice!
I had to be awake during the surgery, so they could “tune” my voice. While I was still lying on the operating table, I heard the voice I thought I’d never hear again. I was thrilled and relieved. We had joked about what I’d do if my voice sounded like Minnie Mouse. But it was familiar, beautiful, and my own. I tingled with excitement and relief. I felt whole again.
In the two years since my vocal surgery, I have continued to grow my art business. I sell my art online and have taught collage art to people all over the country. I have also launched into motivational speaking. I love to share my personal story and journey! My hope is to inspire others to stop waiting for the storm to pass and learn to dance in the rain.