If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don't;
If you'd like to win, but think you can't,
It's almost a cinch you won't.
If you think you'll lose, you're lost,
For out in the world we find
Success begins with a person's faith;
It's all in the state of the mind.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster hand;
They go to the one who trusts in [God]
And always thinks "I can."
I was diagnosed and absorbed like a sponge my Texas weekend with my sweetie, then had the prescribed vocal cord polyp surgery. It's time to ketchup, ain't it? (Can you tell I'm in the south, y'all?)
When Dr. Denninghoff explained the variety of causes for vocal cord polyps, I'd already read this one on the online list, GERD. "Have you had this hoarseness before?" he wondered. "Yes, only ever on deputation."
Interesting what I learned about this connection between hoarseness and deputation. But first of all, what is deputation?
a group of people
appointed to undertake a mission
or take part in a formal process
on behalf of a larger group
With our global-reaching gospel organization, deputation is the travel my husband and I do for the purpose of sharing our burden for the island people of the Pacific and for raising funds while on our missionary furlough.
a leave of absence,
esp. that granted to a member
of the armed services;
a layoff, esp. a temporary one,
from a place of employment.
grant a leave of absence to
This is our fourth deputation and our third furlough.
We typically begin our furlough with a few weeks' rest. Typically. But this is the second atypical furlough that began immediately with deputation right out of the gate.
Why the connection between hoarseness and deputation? Because I am not only ministering by singing at the piano, I am also my husband's biggest supporter when he ministers in the pulpit, his amen corner. Couple that with a lot of eating out after services, and you have the likelihood of GERD.
Dr. Denninghoff had brought up the GERD. After examining my voice box and larynx, every other word out of his mouth it seemed was reflux. "I don't have reflux," was my confident reply.
I'll never forget it. He was doing something on the countertop behind him with his back to me, and when I said "I don't have reflux," he whipped around in his swivel chair, lowered his head and cocked his eye. "You might think you don't," said he, pursing his lips.
I distinctly remember blushing. Was Dr. Denninghoff's the voice of truth in my ears? Could I really have acid reflux? Really?! Am I actually late-night eating more than I realize? Could it be that I'm not taking care of my body like I should?
The fog dissipated when I received the following e-mail from Monte, another international missionary evangelist who's experienced many more furloughs and deputations than we.
"I too had this operation a few years ago, I think in 2008? The doctor was in Nashville, well known, who had done this for famous singers. His info was quite different from others I'd heard from. He said that contrary to popular belief, our vocal cords cannot be abused by use. [Everything I had read online said polyps were the result of vocal abuse, "screamer voice," "singer voice."] They are quite durable and can take most abuse.
[Dr. Denninghoff agrees with this, saying that God made our bodies magnificently with the ability to heal themselves... if we put into them what we should and treat them as we should!]
"He said these things happen as a result of our lifestyle. He told me that preachers and singers do the same thing: They perform, then go eat, then go to bed. The acid reflux then irritates the vocal cords and they become weakened and develop nodules.
"He did not even put me on restrictive speaking after the removal. I was hoping for one of those three months off recuperation instructions but he said I could go back to preaching in five days if I didn't overdo it!
"He told me to quit eating at night before going to bed. I have noticed that very thing: Deputation is the worst for this. But if I do not eat, my throat is strong, and if I do, it will get weak and raspy. It takes a good three to five days of not eating to get it cleared up again.... It sounds like if your trouble developed while on deputation, this could be the result of the acid irritation.
"My doc said the same thing! "You might think you don't [have GERD or acid reflux]!" He said somewhere in our forties, the muscles get weak in the opening of the esophagus into the stomach. Whether you realize it or not, you are experiencing reflux at night when you lie down."
Dr. Denninghoff told me that "we've cleaned up our practice around here," waving his hands to indicate he meant both his and Dr. Seabaugh's ENT medical practice specializing in allergies. "I changed my lifestyle, and I eat a Paleolithic diet. I don't eat late at night and get plenty of rest. Nobody's going to do this for me but me," he said. Dr. Denninghoff will be 60 in May.
He showed me a book their office sells and when I went back for my post-op follow-up, I bought it. After making some wiser decisions, I've already noticed pluses and know the reasons for the minuses. It's been eye-opening! It will certainly be difficult to resist late-night eating... but I will do it! Who else will do it for me but me?
From my Pacific missionary family
I left Dr. Denninghoff's office that morning after he asked me, "So, have you decided what you're going to do?" I managed, "I've decided not to have the surgery," and went out into the parking lot and called my husband who was in Texas. He must have been on another call because I got his voicemail. I then texted my girls and told them my decision not to have the surgery.
But then my man called. Later he talked to my doctor. Both ENTs had prescribed polyp removal. Honestly, I felt like digging in my heels and sticking with my decision not to have the surgery. "I'll go on a self-enforced total voice rest and see what happens."
My husband felt that I should do what the doctors both advised, "but it's your decision," he agreed warmly, "and you need to decide."
Reconsidering, I chose to pray about it and told him I'd let him know my decision tomorrow. I awakened early the next morning. I pecked out my decision to have the surgery. My family was all still in their beds in another part of Missouri, in Texas, and in Ohio. The first one to learn what I'd decided was our daughter Danielle, who read about it before leaving for work that Friday morning, April 10.
This is an e-mail I generated after my surgery.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Before I left Mother's house this morning at 9:15 a.m., our son-in-law Corey and daughter Danielle called and asked to pray for me on speakerphone. Corey lead the prayer, asking God that when the polyp was removed from the vocal cord, it would test negative for cancer and that my recovery would be smooth and uneventful.
Later, before I was wheeled into surgery, my husband and I had several moments alone and I admit that I was very weepy. I'd read a lot of testimonies online about this procedure and I was dealing with fear. My husband reassured me that God had everything under control and that I was going to be just fine. He led us in a prayer for me, specifically asking the Lord that the polyp "fall off."
Following the 15-minute procedure, the surgeon told my husband that although the polyp was hard to get to, when she did, it fell off and only a tiny snip took care of it. When he came to my bedside and shared that testimony, needless to say, it was a tender, faith-filled moment I shall cherish for the rest of my life. "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid...: for the LORD thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (Deuteronomy 31:6).
My recovery looks like this: I will see my ENT Monday morning, and if all goes well, I'll be on Tuesday's flight to where I belong, by my wonderful husband's side-- my covering, my head, my sweetheart of 34+ years, and the best homemade chicken soup-maker on the planet. (Fed me, tummy and soul!) It is my honor and privilege to call him mine, and I hope and encourage you wonderful wives with the following.
I had deep reservations about having this surgery. But as my protector and provider, my husband sought a multitude of counsel (Proverbs 11:4) on my behalf with the desire to allay my fears and encourage me with what he felt strongly was best for me, even though not one of our family wanted me to have to endure this surgery. I certainly did not want surgery, but I submitted my will to my covering, and I believe wholeheartedly that God has and always will honor me in every way as a result of obedience. Even if the pathological results show cancer, in the words of Job, the Lord Himself could slay me, yet I will trust Him as my husband's Head and Covering, his Provider and Protector just as my husband is mine (1 Corinthians 11:3). "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1).
For the husband who desires to be the godly covering for his wife and children, their provider and protector, I encourage you, sir, to do what you feel would be in total obedience to the Word of God. Trust Him to show you what to do, what is right, though the decision you face may be the most difficult of your life or those loved ones under your authority and care. "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..." (Deuteronomy 33:27).
I owe each of you a deep debt of gratitude for your prayers on my behalf. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I appreciate your continued prayers for full vocal recovery,
Four days later during Monday's follow-up, Dr. Seabaugh could tell my voice was good to go. "Mandatory vocal rest isn't necessary but it couldn't hurt." We both smiled as I hugged her on my way out.
Be joyful always;
give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you
in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18