The Loaner

My recovery this week has descended into the “slow slog” part. The good news is that I’ve avoided (so far) any sign of the crushing depression that’s been promised me (oh, there’s still time) but the bad news is that my voice seems to have gotten a little worse. I was warned that this might happen with the radioactive iodine, and probably the steroids took a few days to get out of my system and once they were gone some swelling returned to boot. I am starting to want to go back into work but the mechanics are simply impossible. Merely entering the Arts building would require to talk more than I am physically capable of doing right now. I am also refusing to talk on the phone at this point as the phone is particularly hard on my voice.

I had a killer speech therapy session on Wednesday, in the sense of “difficult” and “exhausting.” Speech therapy is a cross between physical therapy (moving stuff around) and singing lessons, more or less. It’s pretty fun, but there was a lot of trial and error. My speech therapist suspects that my trachea still isn’t fully closed and was actually able to make me make myself dizzy doing certain exercises — which we promptly stopped — but that suggests there is still a leak somewhere in the system. Also, my voice is still weak enough that talking at normal volume for me is sort of like yelling at full volume for you. Now imagine trying to have a normal conversation for an hour or two.

Thus, while I’m not depressed, you could call me impatient and slightly frustrated. I am lucid enough and energetic enough to take visitors, but I can’t really do a whole lot of socializing yet because the temptation to talk is too great and too taxing over time. So clearly I need a technological solution. I need a cane for my voice.

I spent time Thursday and Friday researching portable voice amplifiers, and next week one and possibly two may arrive for me to try out. They universally look lame, but they do seem to work work. I know this because my speech therapist kindly lent me a “loaner.” It’s reminiscent of the kind of “loaner” you get when a car dealer fixes your car and has to wait a week for a part–not the nicest unit on the lot, but it works.

Both the mic and the speaker are over 25 years old as far as I can tell. Radio Shack no longer exists in Canada and while “The Source” has countless things into which you can plug your iPod, there are no electronics nerd amplifiers like this for sale anymore. Which leaves me in considerably more pricey medical supplies markets. Anyway, the voice amp does really help, though I have to watch out for feedback. Friday night I was able to go out to dinner with friends, and while I was considerably less loquacious than I might be under better circumstances (pick up the mic to talk), I was able to make myself heard while more or less speaking at whisper volume. Of course I look like some dork televangelist sitting at a table with a mic and speaker, but I could make myself heard and participate in real time, as opposed to writing notes, which has been established as inferior. The units I ordered come with head or neck-mounted mics (you could use a lapel mic but since I want the speaker near my chest, the opportunities for feedback are too great) so I’ll look more like a call center worker and less like a televangelist. For a pretty penny, I can upgrade to one of the slightly more discreet mics that broadway actors use. Yes, I might seriously consider doing that if this is going to be a long term thing.

I should note that while whisper volume is my normal voice volume right now, I am not in fact whispering. Yet I noticed this winter when my voice was in similar shape that people would whisper back at me. Which it turns out is super annoying because they probably aren’t consciously doing it–it’s that thing where people raise or drop their voices to match your levels (useful knowledge if you ever want to diffuse an escalating conflict: speak more quietly and flatly). But I don’t want to be whispered to. I kind of feel like I’m being addressed like a child. Which is not really how I want to be addressed.


In other news, M introduced me to the Hope&Cope Wellness Centre, where for the price of a possibly slightly demeaning intake interview you can get a free personal trainer and access to a surprisingly beautiful building about a block away from the Jewish General Hospital. The mean age of the clientele is closer to that of my mom than me, but it still has a certain appeal. All you need for access is to have cancer and to go through the interview–which I’ll do next week. I figure I’ll take all the perks I can get.

Friday was the Whole Body Scan–no news on that for a few weeks, probably. Easiest scan yet, though, and the I was grateful that the tech was thorough enough to do my neck twice just to be sure he got it.

USA Today ran a story on radioactive iodine treatment. The actual issues regarding decay of isotopes are not subject to interpretation or debate, but different organizations are setting different regulations and because it is radiation everybody freaks out and reverts to superstition. As a former radiation safety officer put it on the Thyroid Cancer Canada list, the “cooling off” period for radioactive iodine leaving the body is like the cooling off period for taking a pie out of the oven. If you know the composition of the pie, the temperature of the oven and the temperature of the room, then you know how long it will take to cool off. If it’s an hour, you can wait 3 hours but you don’t get any added benefit beyond peace of mind by doing so. That said, from the algorithms provided by said radiation safety officer, I don’t think I’d send someone with a high RAI dose to a hotel right after dosing, especially given cleaning standards in hotels. But I am no longer a public threat, even though I may set off alarms at the border for awhile.