What if my voice doesn't come back?

I had my thyroid removed about two weeks ago because it was very large, and I was worried about cancer. My sister and nephew have both been diagnosed with thyroid cancer this year. The surgeon does almost only thyroids, so she’s very experienced. She said mine was the worst she’d seen - it looked like someone opened my throat and poured it concrete. It was rock-hard and she had to literally chip it off my right vocal cord. According to her, during the surgery, as word spread about how involved it was, people keep coming in to watch. She told me strictly no talking for several weeks after the surgery, and that she was very concerned about my voice. I’ve been as quiet as possible (calls to the insurance companies, and my mother’s had emergency heart surgery, so I haven’t been totaly silent, but close. Swallowing is also still an issue - only being able to take small sips and position my hed right to swallow without choking.

I hope my voice will come back eventually, but what if it doesn’t? I’m a credit rep, which requires a lot of on-the-job talking. Is my employer required to make adjustments on my job? Is speech therapy likely to help? Does anyone have any other hints or suggestions?



I don’t have any answers, but I came in to wish you well and send get well thoughts your way.

Your story of people coming to watch reminded me of my experience. A few years back I had an experimental precedure on my stomach. The doc asked if I minded if others came to watch. I’m not too shy and what the heck, eh? I said sure. The place was packed. People were even in the hallway. One guy patted me on the shoulder as I was wheeled past and said “Thanks for letting us see this! It’s gonna be something.”

In the end, they pulled out of the procedure early, they decided I wasn’t as strong a candidate as they wanted and everyone (including me) went home disappointed.

I wouldn’t worry too much about your job: you can still type and write to people. I have worked with several people who are dumb or speech-impaired and they’re in well-paying jobs.

As for your voice, while you’re off work, why not start to learn sign language anyway? It’s a useful extra skill, and will give you something to keep you busy. Even better if you can get your insurance or work to pay for it.

If your employer is covered by the ADA, or more generous state legislation, this is a disability they’d almost certainly have to make reasonable accommodations for. There is probably some type of speech synthesis software that could read out what you type. For phone calls, it seems like the TTY service for the hearing impaired could help you out, also, by reading your side of the conversation. If you’re not supposed to be talking now, but need to call insurance and such, maybe you could find out if TTY is available to you while you heal.

Best of luck for a good recovery.

You may want to look into seeing a speech-language pathologist (speech therapist) for an evaluation once you’re healed. They can help to diagnose any secondary problems that come up–hopefully they don’t–or help give you exercises/methods to strengthen and protect your voice.
I don’t know too much about it, but I’ll run it by my S.O., who is dealing with patients in similar conditions on a daily basis.

ETA: yes, seeing one is rather likely to help. Think of it like PT after a sports injury.

Definitely see a speech pathologist if you continue to have problems. They can not only help with your voice, but also with the swallowing problems. And they can probably help you work out tech solutions if needed.

Be sure to get a good one, I’d strongly recommend one that does their own testing.
[Voice of experience: hopping back & forth between the “speech pathologist” that did the testing and the “speech therapists” that were supposedly translating the test results into a therapy program = no damn good. We had much better results with therapists that handled the entire program; they were very good.]

Listen to the doc - my mom insisted on talking when they told her not to and permanently damaged her voice.

This should be covered by ADA for most companies (>15 employees), and possibly by state laws as well.

Okay, here’s what the girlfriend has to say. As usual, this should not replace the medical advice of a qualified physician, yada yada yada.

That’s what I got.

I keep trying to get her to join up 'cause of questions like these, but to no avail. If you want to know more, I can pass messages. :slight_smile:

Synthetically Organic - Please thank your girlfriend (and tell her I said to join). I’ve been as quiet as I can - my dogs are wondering why I’m not talking to them, but they get plenty of kissy-noises, etc. I go back to the doctor on Wednesday, so hopefully she’ll have good news. I guess what I have is disphonia, as I have some voice, but it’s hoarse, quiet and very breathy. I know I’ve been talking more than I should, but not too much, I hope.

My company is very large so the ADA must apply. I really don’t want more surgery, but I can’t live like this. I miss talking. I miss singing. I miss eating and drinking without thinking about it.


StGermain I have no advice for you but I hope things work out ok for you.