I'm heading to New York tomorrow for the botox injections into the muscles that help control my vocal cords. I've learned to recognize some of the subtle changes in my voice that tell me it's almost time. First there's that raspy, husky quality, a mix of Lauren Bacall, Tallulah Bankhead and Kathleen Turner all in one. I don't mind it really as I actually get compliments when it's like that. I had a guy tell me once that he could listen to me all day, but since he wasn't my husband, I simply thanked him and left it at that. I could probably hire myself out to do voice-overs for commercials or animated features, but even if I did, I could easily sound like Porky Pig one day and Darth Vader the next. I know that's a bit of an exaggeration, but in the world of Spasmodic Dysphonia and botox injections, one is never sure what the voice will do.
I'll never forget my first injection. Since I'd never had a treatment before, the doctor guessed at the dosage. The first couple of days I sounded pretty good. I didn't realize that it takes about three days for the stuff to kick in. I woke up that Sunday morning sounding like one of the Chipmunks. My daughters thought it was hilarious and would phone me so that I could talk to their friends. Needless to say, the doctor cut my dose on the next visit.
After the raspy voice comes the fatigue, meaning it just takes more effort to talk. Simple conversations become work. We'll be riding along and I won't say anything or very little. Larry will look over at me all concerned then rather tentatively ask if everything's alright. Well, yes and no. Things are fine but I'm simply too tired to carry on a conversation. That's hard for him as he really likes to talk. Then soon after, the spasms become more intense. The voice no longer has that deep, husky sound, it merely sounds like it's in pain. It isn't, but to anyone listening, it seems that way.
So back to my appointment in Manhattan. I fly tomorrow to meet with my doctor who incidentally is the absolute best at doing what he does. After all, he was a pioneer, the first to use botox in the treatment of Spasmodic Dysphonia. He's so confident, so adept at his work, I'll be in and out of the chair in just a matter of minutes. And since I've set up an early appointment, I can relax afterwards and hang out on Fifth Avenue for a few hours before my flight home. It's really not a bad way to spend a beautiful day in May.
There was a time when I pleaded with God to give me my voice back. And there have been times, especially over the last year or so, when it was so strong, I thought the spasms might never return. But they did and they do. That hasn't changed what I believe, however. I know unequivocally that my Creator could rewire that piece of brain sending the wrong impulses to my vocal cords, restore my voice, even make it better. But sometimes it better serves His purpose to leave things as they are.
When I left South Carolina a couple of years back I was hardly able to talk. Because of insurance headaches, I hadn't had a treatment in well over a year. But I came into a church that desperately needed someone to take over the music program and I seemed the logical choice. The piano wasn't a problem, my hands and fingers were working just fine. I could certainly plan the music and practice with the musicians. I couldn't sing, but it wasn't all that hard pounding out notes. Yeah, I could do this. So I had worked out the music that first week with the singers and the instrumentalists and I knew we were ready. Except for one thing. I had no spokesperson, someone to tie the music and the service together. "You do it." Ever hear God's voice? I did, and I argued with Him. "I can't Lord, not with this voice." Aah. My voice. That was who I had been, my voice central as musician and teacher. I had done community theater and formed a successful drama ministry. Those things had brought me a sense of pride, of accomplishment. But now they required too much effort. Besides, they were part of my past, not my present. He responded, "Now it's time to let me show what I can do. Trust me."
I can't begin to express how nervous I was that first Sunday standing at the keyboard. I have never been afraid of microphones but found this one intimidating. It was time to introduce the first song. I took a deep breath, opened my mouth and the words poured out easily. My speech felt free for the first time in months, and except for a slightly raspy throat, no one would have ever suspected a voice disorder.
This continued for the next several months as I was able to speak week after week. Without fail, however, the spasms would return immediately after the service ended, simply a reminder that this had nothing to do with me. This was God's doing. His strength manifesting itself in my weakness became an ever present reality in my life. There were even a few occasions when I was able to pray over someone with clarity, effortlessly. But as soon as the prayer was over, the spasms were back.
So I'm getting my treatment tomorrow. Did I mention that my doctor's one of the best in the world? Used to be I could go only a few months without another injection. I've been going lots longer than that, and except for a raspy voice, I don't sound all that bad. Did I mention I'm singing again? It doesn't come quite so easily as it used to, so now I ask God to help me with each and every note. I'm glad He doesn't make it too easy for me. Besides, I had to learn that I can't do what I do without Him. There's just one more thing. The injections don't last more than four months, I happen to be going on eight. Last visit I asked Dr. Blitzer how I'm able to go so long. He told me that sometimes the brain gets fooled and it takes awhile for it to figure things out.
Hmmm. Perhaps that how it works for some. But as for me, I had some learning to do and God knew I needed an object lesson. So here's what I think He might have said to me: "Marcy, I'm going to take what you consider the strongest thing in your life to show you that you're nothing without me. That just happens to be your voice box. It's going to be hard. You won't understand at first. You'll plead, you'll cry, you'll grieve. But the day will come when you'll understand, and you'll see that it's in your weakness my strength comes through. And you will feel more blessed than you can possibly imagine. Trust me on this one." He was right.