Is it TRUE? HELPFUL? MY PLACE TO SAY?

 

Is it true? Helpful? My place to say? Three questions we have tried as a family to ask ourselves before speaking.

My mom used to say, “Those words would taste bitter if you had to swallow them.”

She would remind me that words are like toothpaste from a tube; it’s really difficult to take them back.

I guess I had an issue with words when I was a teenager. I still do. I work REALLY hard to keep them in check, and yet I still sometimes fail. The words I want to say that I manage to force back sit just behind my teeth as I choose TMJ over wrecked relationships. I owe my dentist an apology.

Social media has become a hateful place lately. People are divided, pride is strong, and the façade of hiding behind a screen, convincing.

But words…they yield power. They can heal. Or, they can destroy.

When my late husband Dan was battling lung cancer, he’d just begun a new chemotherapy when his voice began to quickly fade.

At first, he sounded like he was developing laryngitis. Hoarse…to raspy. Then he sounded whispery. Then…nothing.

Baffled, we called his cancer doctor, who referred him to a throat specialist.

On a looming monitor above a procedure chair, the specialist took us on a tour of Dan’s vocal cords.

He pointed that one looked like it was ready to form a word, bowed out. As Dan attempted to speak, it would move. The other though, was like a teenager being told to take out the trash. It just sat there, refusing to do its job.

To form a word, both of your vocal cords need to cooperate, the doctor explained. But one wasn’t meeting the other; it was paralyzed.

The solution? To inject the cord with silicone. Yes. They were going to put plastic in his throat to help him speak again.

I was asked if I’d like to stay in the room to watch the procedure. My nerdiness about all things medical, which Dan and I shared, was competing with my passy outty-ness.

I had been in nursing school out of high school, only to realize I pass out easily at the sight of blood. I spent a lot of time talking to patients, and realized I was more useful as a talker than as nurse who might be passed out cold on the floor.

I stayed for the procedure though. The doctor lifted the hugest needle I’ve ever seen from a tray off to his side.

As he prepared Dan, and the solution he needed to fill the failing cord, I began to ponder this question: WHY…why…would a vocal cord be affected by treatment for cancer in the lungs? It just didn’t make sense.

Dan had stage four lung cancer, terminal, at diagnosis. He was 42. It was a very specific mutation that often affected non-smokers like Dan. The new chemotherapy had caused tumors within and surrounding the lungs to get very angry as they realized they were being challenged, and they were inflamed. This was good news. It meant it was likely going to help shrink them.

But I was baffled that his voice would somehow be affected.

So, as the doctor began to pierce the skin on Dan’s neck with that gigantic needle – yes, that’s how they went in – I asked the question. Why?

The doctor said, “Oh I know. Isn’t it crazy? It’s a mystery why our nerves are arranged this way.” He explained that the nerve that supplies our vocal cords could have taken the easy road, and simply began in the brain, and made their way to the cords, and boom, you got words!

But, no. The nerve leaves the brain and takes a deep dive around your aorta, near your HEART, before it ventures back up to supply your voice. That’s why inflammation in Dan’s chest caused him to lose his voice.

So, let me get this straight…our words are run past our hearts, literally?

I don’t see a quirk, or medical anomaly. I see a clever God, Who has a sense of humor, who knew we would need this reminder.

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  (Matthew 12)

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