I am scheduled for surgery on my vocal cords on Tuesday to remove a polyp that has disrupted my voice for most of this year. For quite some time prior to my current acute situation, my voice has felt a little raspy, like a smokers voice, and I just assumed it was damage done over the years. Then in early January I got a little virus that I felt in my neck. I wondered if it might have been a mild case of COVIDs latest variant, but I tested negative with a home test. But who knows, a lot of people have told me that the home tests did not reliably detect Omicron. But I suppose it should not really matter to me what the virus was. What matters to me is that I developed laryngitis.
For the last couple of weeks in January of 2022, it was very difficult for me to speak. I had a really hoarse voice and it would give out on me if I used it very much. I’ve mentioned before that we lead a small spiritual community here, and our rituals include a few prayers and lots of singing. I found myself unable to complete the prayers and unable to sing. This was very frustrating to me. I did some reading about laryngitis and learned that acute laryngitis usually clears up in two weeks at the max, and that if it persists longer than three weeks or so, it’s considered chronic. I found that chronic laryngitis is caused by continued abuse of the vocal cords, and so I started to do everything I could to take care of them.
I have lots of intelligent and helpful friends who recommended may remedies. My favorite was eating Manuka honey by the spoonful. My least favorite was using one of those small rubber spatulas to spread Andiroba oil on the back of my throat. Andiroba is an oil produced from a very bitter Amazonian nut. My daughter in law’s cousin recommended it to me. My daughter in law is from western Amazonas. In fact her family is from so far west in the Amazon that to get to her house, you have to go to the state of Acre, and from there, you head east on a motorized canoe for seven hours. Andiroba is a very useful remedy for all manner of cuts and bites. It is antiseptic, and it repels mosquitoes as well. The taste is super bitter (as are many medicines from Amazonas) and to gag yourself with a pastry spatula to spread it on the back of your throat, you really have to want to get better.
I won’t say that I stopped using Cannabis, because that would imply that I did use it to begin with, but I can say that I have not exacerbated my condition by continuing to engage in any habits that might have a negative impact. Another dear friend also pointed out that anything that has the effect of drying the mucous membranes would exacerbate my condition, whether inhaled or eaten. Check, done and done.
If you have been following my writing, which I will not assume, you may have seen that we spent the last half of February and the first half of March in Telluride. I promised myself that I would do everything possible to heal myself, and that if my voice was still a problem when I got home, I would go to the Doctor.
My father was a surgeon, and he used to say “if you cannot cut on it, then it’s not worth fixing.” I was pretty skeptical that a doctor would be able to do much for me. What was he going to say? I figured he’d confirm that I have laryngitis and prescribe yet another remedy to plaster on my throat. Fortunately, I have a very loving wife who often provides a counterbalance to my stubbornness, and she agreed to let me try to heal myself until we got home, and in exchange I promised to go to the doctor if I did not get better.
I really did everything I could do for those weeks, and nothing worked. I still sounded terrible. I could not sing, and my voice sounded ever worse. When I got home I made an appointment.
We had a spiritual work on March 15th, as we do on the 15th and 30th of every month, and during this work, I prayed for some insight into what was the spiritual/energetic significance of this ailment that I have been suffering. I went deep into concentration and really tried to connect with my inner guides, and up from the depths bubbled a simple message.
“IT’S A GIFT”
That was not at all what I expected. My snarky self immediately wanted to know if I could return it, but I did not even allow the thought to formulate into words. How could this suffering be a gift? I spent the rest of our concentration pondering this, and I was left with more questions than answers.
Two days later, I went to the ENT, a very groovy and chipper young doctor who I immediately liked very much. I had actually met him before when he looked after my wife. He sat me down in a chair under a big machine and sprayed my throat with a numbing agent, and stuck a camera down there. I looked up into his face and tried to interpret his expressions. Of course, the scary voice in my head wanted to say “throat cancer” but I suppressed this thought and replaced it with a prayer “my body is healthy and strong and this is good news.” I repeated that little mantra until the Doctor said “mystery solved! you have a polyp!”
Turns out all I have to do is go back to the very same chair next Tuesday and he can zap the little polyp right off my vocal cord with a laser. It will literally just vaporize the polyp and cauterize the wound at the same time. Presto! He printed out the pictures for a souvenir, and I apologize if it was too much to share, but there you have it. I could hear my Dad’s voice affirming that “since you can cut on it, it’s worth fixing.”
By the time Tuesday arrives, it will have been almost exactly two weeks since the polyp was discovered. I have had plenty of time to reflect on how this has been a gift. The first notion that came to me is that it was a gift because it’s benign and can be cured with a quick zap by a laser in the doctor’s office. It’s a gift because if I could not get better, then it would not be a gift.
But why the experience? One thing I have learned in my spiritual path is that upgrades often come on the heels of suffering. We have to go through some kind of ordeal as part of the upgrade. One upgrade I hope to receive is literally a new voice. It is my hope and prayer that the mild raspy sounding smoker voice I have carried around will be fixed. I am hoping and praying that my new voice will be a beautiful musical instrument, and that I will have the gift of learning to use it. Another gift is that over the last several weeks that I have had difficulty speaking, I have learned to be much more careful with my words. I find myself keeping my thoughts to myself and not sharing my opinions unless I am asked. We have several hymns in our doctrine that advise us to “speak little and listen a lot,” and I have been doing a lot more listening and a lot less talking. Through this process, I have found that the fewer words I speak the more power they have, and I have also learned not to try to give advice to those who do not want to listen to me. What a relief. What a gift!
And here is a special gift I will share with anyone who actually reads this far. Early on in my spiritual path I received a visionary experience related to my voice. I was in a clearing in the forest and I was sitting on the ground facing an old indigenous man. In between us was a cloth laid out on the ground and in the middle of the cloth was a bundle wrapped in some kind of thin leather. He unfolded the bundle, and inside the bundle was an organ that looked like the larynx of a duck, which I recognized from cleaning birds that I had shot. A duck larynx looks like this:
The old man took his finger and cut me open at the base of my throat, and inserted this organ, and then touched me again, and sealed me back up with the organ inside. He said it would give power to my voice, but not until I was ready for it. He said it would only work when I spoke with integrity and in service to the divine will. It would not work when I misused my voice, or if used it for personal gain at the expense of others. He put it inside me, and now I feel it may be activating.
Stephanie took off for a women’s event in Austin for the weekend. She gets back on Monday evening, and my surgery is Tuesday morning. It’s Friday afternoon now. I have the next four days to sit in contemplation of what is coming for me. After that, I have four days of strict silence while my voice heals. All in all that’s a full eight days of contemplation. I truly believe that this is a gift and that I will be a new person with a new voice afterwards.
Please pray for me. Please pray for peace too.