Part 1, Why I Sought Medical Help

Nearly a year and a half ago, in September of 2016, I was diagnosed with cancer. Why I sought medical help in the first place is the beginning of a story I’ve wanted to share here, but I felt too exposed to blog about at the time, so I turned to my journal. Now, with God’s help – for he’s been with me all the way – I’m going to chronicle what happened, in hopes it may encourage someone. In brief, I learned I had thyroid cancer, then lung cancer, and went through multiple surgeries and chemo, and have started radiation.

Thanks to God – who works in ways that include modern medicine – my latest tests show no evidence of disease. Part 1 follows.

Surrounded and Supported ~ 2016

Why I Sought Medical Help

On July 1, 2016, or thereabouts, I woke up with laryngitis. At least that’s what I thought it was. As a teenager, I had lost my voice once for a whole week, which scared me, for I loved to sing. Every morning, the first thing I did was try to hum, and when I couldn’t, I nearly cried. On top of that, I couldn’t eat much because my throat hurt.

But on this day in July, my throat wasn’t sore or scratchy, I wasn’t sick, but something didn’t feel right. It was as if my vocal cords were crowded. When I woke up the next morning, my voice was back, higher and weaker. Oddly, I didn’t sound like me, yet I assumed whatever was causing the change would clear up in time.

During the following week, I drove to Idaho by myself to prepare for my mom’s memorial service. (My husband had to work and came by plane.) Our son read my tribute to my mom not only because I felt I’d be too emotional but also because my voice was so weak. As I greeted family and friends afterward the service, everyone said comforting things about my mom, and many asked about my voice.

During the next month, nothing changed in my throat except that swallowing sometimes took an effort, and my husband agreed I should seek medical help. So I requested an appointment with an ENT specialist (self-referral) by email through our HMO.

Testing the Vocal Cords

This is taken from an email I sent my dad on August 13, 2016:

On Wednesday morning, I went to see an ear-nose-throat specialist in Bellevue. While waiting for a few minutes in the exam room, I studied a booklet that showed the anatomy of the throat and vocal cords. I’d forgotten that the cords lie in a horizontal plane.

The doctor interviewed me, palpated my throat, and told me he was going to do a laryngoscopy (also called Video Stroboscopy) using a miniature camera attached to a probe, which was a stiff yet flexible piece of cable about a foot long.

He started by spraying a numbing liquid in my left nostril, waited a few seconds, and inserted the probe up my nostril until it reached my larynx. After the probe was in place, he asked me to say “eeeee” on a low tone and a higher tone, soft and loud, while he filmed. (The procedure didn’t bother me at all.) After removing the probe, he asked if I wanted to see the footage he’d taken, and I said, “I’d love to!” We watched the video clip as he narrated what my vocal cords were doing.

My left vocal cord is redder and bigger than the right one, and it doesn’t quite touch the right vocal cord or vibrate as it should when I vocalize, which accounts for my hoarse voice. The doctor said he thinks I may have an infection, so he prescribed an antibiotic, ordered a CT scan, assured me that 98-99% of nodules were non-cancerous, and told me to return in three months.”

Thirteen years earlier, a doctor had ordered scans of my thyroid because it was lumpy but hadn’t found anything worrisome, so I didn’t think too much about my upcoming scan this time and prayed my voice would improve on its own. I couldn’t wait to get back to singing in the church choir.

I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ Who died for me;
How He left His home in glory
For the cross of Calvary.”

Francis H. Rowley, 1886

In case you’re interested, you can watch vocal cords in action here.

Next week: Diagnostic Tests for Cancer

Thanks for reading!

38 thoughts on “Part 1, Why I Sought Medical Help

    1. Thanks for reading, Laura. Although I don’t consider myself brave, it’s tough to share emotional things as you well know. Bless you, my friend.

  1. I am so glad you are cancer free. I continue to pray for you as I think of you. Thanks for posting this. I really am interested in your story.

  2. Hi Norma!

    I didn’t know you went through all this! It’s a wonderful thing that you are posting about it because you may reach someone who needs the information at a critical time for them.

    Chuck had thyroid cancer in 1985. It so happened that a cousin of mine had thyroid cancer at the same time as Chuck and both got it due to an out-moded medical treatment given to them when they were chlldren. Both were treated successfully and both of them made sure that people heard the story because they felt that it would save lives.

    Thank you for being so brave and posting the story. I’ll pray for you!

    1. I appreciate your comments, Suzanne, and didn’t realize your husband had thyroid cancer. Thanks for your prayers, my friend.

  3. So thankful you are sharing!! So good to see how God walks through these hard times with us!! Praying it is healed!!:):) Love you, Carol

      1. hey Norma so glad to hear you are doing well Jan 16 I had to have a colon scope done just a check up since my mom had colon cancer I have to have one every 5 years needless to say it came out clear no cancer my colon was normal

      2. Thanks, Johnnie! I’m glad you’re doing well, too, and that your colon test showed no signs of cancer. I appreciate your reading my blog.

  4. Very interesting, Norma. You’re approaching the blog one chronological segment at a time, as you had to live it. I’m glad it’s time to share it with your readers.

    1. Your feedback encourages me to keep writing, Judy. By the way, I appreciate your letting me know the link to my blog is broken. Hopefully, it’ll be fixed soon. Thanks!

  5. Dearest Norma,
    Thank you for sharing your journey.
    Ever since I heard of your cancer, you have been in my daily prayers for healing & strength. Also for strength & courage for Lee being there for you.
    May The Lord continue to bless you & your family.

    1. Your prayers mean a lot to me, Patti. They make all the difference in the world when I’m sick as a dog. Thanks! (Yes, I’m thankful for Lee’s support, too.)

  6. You are missed in the church choir, Norma! But we praise the Lord for your recent very good test results. Your positive attitude and reliance on the Lord are an Inspiration and we pray that when your energy returns you will be able to use your God-given musical talents as He leads~

    1. I miss you and the choir, too, Shelley. Your encouragement and prayers – and music! – bless me big time. Thanks!

  7. Thank you for sharing Norma! I’m so sorry you had to go through it! The Choir would have prayed you through it if we had known! Blessings!

  8. Norma, thanks for sharing your journey with us. God knew all the details even as we prayed for you in our limited knowledge. I appreciate your willingness to share your story. We love you and your family and continue to pray for you. ~ Lynda

    1. Your comment – that God knew all the details even as you prayed in limited knowledge – is so insightful, Lynda, as it reveals God’s sovereignty and compassion. Thank you so much keeping Lee and me and all the family in your prayers. Love you, too.

  9. My Dear Norma,
    I had no idea this was happening to you, but I know your faith, your family and your Savior, all who have lovingly walked with you through this. You have been well cared for! Thank you for including me in your email notice and BIG thanks for letting us know at the beginning of the story that you now have no symptoms of the cancer. That is no “spoiler,” but a good early addition. Though I know the end of the story, that by no way means I don’t want to hear the rest of the story. I am eager to read about your journey, anticipating the blessings that will bring. I send love to you and Lee across the miles!.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Mary-Ellen. I wish we could have a nice long chat in person, but since we’re separated by a couple thousand miles, I’ll tell you that what you wrote blesses me. God has been so good through this journey, surrounding me with caring family and friends and church, and now with notes from around the world. All our love to you and Bill, too.

  10. You have been in my prayers for a few months! God put you on my heart and I knew He would give answers in His own time through you or others. Continued prayers coming your way. I agree with Sara! Your granddaughter does look like Rebeca back when the girls went to church together. Sara thought it was an old photo! Love Sister in Christ.

    1. May God bless your heart, Susan! I know that you understand what cancer’s about – may that’s why you prayed for me even before you knew. Thanks so much for praying. Btw, others, too, have said my granddaughters resemble my daughters. It’s like turning back the clock.

  11. I didn’t know about this journey, Norma, but appreciate your willingness to share it with us. I’m sure God will use your experience to inform and comfort others who face similar trials. So glad to hear your most recent test were clean!

    1. So nice to hear from you, Terry. Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate your rejoicing with us about the clean scans.

  12. Dear Norma,
    Thank you for being willing to share your Cancer journey.
    It is a tremendously brave thing for you to do.
    As you very well know, God has allowed suffering in our lives so that we can grow in our knowledge of and relationship with Him, and share these findings with others.
    I too have realized it is time for some of my life’s journey to be shared with others through a blog and podcast on the Aspect Ministries page.
    It will take some time to put it together, and I covet your prayers for its formulation process, that it will be a tool to come alongside others, encouraging them to seek God and His purpose through All of life’s journeys.
    God bless you Norma.
    You have been such a huge blessing to so many of us in so many ways.
    Love, Melinda

    1. Thank you for your encouraging note, Melinda. Not sure about being brave, but like you, I felt I had to let people see how God has carried me over rough seas as well as calm ones, assuring me of his presence each moment. I’ll be looking forward to reading your blog and podcast. May the Lord bless you. With my love and prayers, Norma

  13. Norma,
    Thanks so much for including me in your BLOG. A friend of mine did it during the long process of fighting breast cancer. It gave all her friends and family a way to stay connected and give support. I am sure it was cathartic for her as well. Knowing she was not alone going through the most frightening time of her life. We celebrated her 5 year anniversary a while back!

    My neighbor also had cancer around his vocal cords but has been cancer free now for a few years and is doing well. I am so happy to learn that you are now cancer free.

    I hope these success stories and others will give you comfort and hope for a long lasting success as well. My thoughts and best wishes will be with you as I continue to read the ongoing chapters of your story.

    Dee Dee Godfrey

    1. Your snail mail note asking about my blog helped me decide to write it, Dee Dee. Thanks for reading it. I appreciate your sharing the inspiring stories of friends who’ve fought cancer. Yes, they do offer comfort and hope. May God bless you!

  14. Hi Norma. i am so glad to hear that you are on the path to wellness and cancer free. I know it has been a tough journey, but you have such terrific support through family and friends, and of course God guiding you along the way.
    Want you to know that I have missed seeing you and you are always in my thoughts and prayers. Love, Andrea

    1. Thank you very much for reading my blog and for your kind thoughts and prayers, Andrea. We miss seeing you, too! I hope we can get together soon. Our love to you.

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