June 16, 2001
I came to Dr. Cooper a year ago after having a tumor removed from my chest. The surgery to remove the tumor was a 12-hour surgery, the tumor had wrapped itself around nerve tissue along with veins and arteries in and out of the heart. In fact, I was later to understand that the tumor was about to grow into the spine. Going into the surgery there was as 10% chance that the nerve running to the vocal cords would be severed. As luck would have it, it was. As the surgery was performed at the NIH by one of the best surgeons in his field, when it was over I felt lucky and grateful that I was alive.
Now here was the challenge. I had no voice. It was a croak, not a voice. Being that I am a communicator by profession, a public speaker, teacher, and voice over actor, this was not a good thing.
The NIH doctor and their speech people told me that I could have surgery on my vocal cords. They could, he said, put a stint in the dead cord (tone cord was dead and the other still functioned), or inject the dead cord with fat or silicon, or some other substance. But I didn't want anything to do with more surgery. I had some healing to do physically, for the surgery left me in constant extreme pain for months.
A friend of mine saw Dr. Cooper on television. Later that week, as destiny would have it, that same friend ran into Dr. Cooper in an elevator. Unlike the surgeon, Dr. Cooper said that mine was an easy problem to tackle and that with voice rehab we could handle the challenge. "Easy" I thought. How could that be?
When I went to see Dr. Cooper he said that this was a challenge that we could handle in 1 year to 18 months and that the prognosis was excellent. In addition to Dr. Cooper's optimism, I met many patients coming in and out of Dr. Cooper's office who had horrible problems and were able under his eye and skill to correct was appeared hopeless. Person after person was told that their case was hopeless by doctors. The well-meaning doctors suggested surgery, shots, etc. and suggested that what Dr. Cooper was offering was a ruse. Well, I saw these people get better and better with the simple but effective exercises and the acute ear of Dr. Cooper.
In my own case, over a year has gone by. My one vocal cord is still shot; but you wouldn't know it. I teach. I speak to thousands of people on a regular basis. I can even yell at my cat occasionally. I have done this without surgery, no shots. Just the care of Dr. Cooper and vocal exercises.
I cannot tell you how sad it was to think of a life where I would not have been heard above a whisper, where I would be unable to teach and speak and carry on about my life, and use the gifts I was given. I have seen the victims of the surgery that was proposed to me, and I am grateful that my friend ran into Dr. Cooper in the elevator one day.