It would be nice to scream.
The verdict on my voice? Based a perfunctory scope, there’s nothing they can do for me. My vocal cords remain partially paralyzed and won’t open sufficiently, but it can’t be fixed, and why try? I have metastatic cancer. I should worry about that. The shortness of breath? If it gets worse, and I can’t breathe, I should go to the emergency room.
Well, no shit.
I complained about the coughing, the shortness of breath, the fact that my heart rate suddenly jumped from 70 at a brisk walk to a resting 90. He told me other patients have it worse. I’m not other patients. I’m a 35-year-old embarrassed to see casual friends or meet new people, subtly being dropped from external calls at work, struggling on a flight of stairs and overcome with dread when the phone rings.
But the only thing that mattered was the cancer, and the specifics of my symptoms and experiences were irrelevant. The doctor blamed the voice on the WBR I had in January 2019, and of course there’s a possibility of late side effects, but overnight eleven months later? Within days of my second dose of a drug known to cause all manner of wonky side effects? He was fixated on the radiation to my brain, but he also asked if I’d had radiation to my throat. For a second I went blank. Then I said, “I had a cleft palate repaired when I was one?” It was the only thing I could think of that had ever happened in my throat.
That was in fact what it was. A little patch of scar, completely irrelevant to anything, leftover from when I was an infant.
I started crying. He said, “I’m sorry we couldn’t do more for you,” then said I could come back in three or four months. It was optional. Then he told me to make a right to get to the exit. I stormed out, furious and heartbroken, recounting the whole interaction to my husband sitting on a campus bus stop bench right outside the ENT building. I didn’t care who heard me. I wanted them to hear me.