As I’ve said in other blogs, my voice just vanished back in January right after I was diagnosed with cancer. I’ve been croaking ever since. Even though it’s gotten a little better since I went into remission, I have rarely heard my real, warm, rich, lovely speaking voice over seven months. Only recently have I recovered enough from my treatments to have the physical strength to go and see a pulmonologist to try and diagnose and fix the problem. I had a bronchioscope last Wednesday and will see him this coming week to see what we do next.
I’ve been wondering for the last couple of weeks if my loss of voice hasn’t had to do with my needing to start writing again. A couple of friends have suggested the same thing lately, which seems synchronistic. I’ve had writer’s block for years, but I’ve always been able to tell stories and talk about the books I wanted to write nonstop. One of the main reasons I started this blog was to write down all of the things I’ve learned during my journey of recovery from cancer. Sharing this information now, getting it out there so that maybe others don’t need to suffer or be afraid or stumble as much as I did is very important to me. I feel like a map maker traveling through unknown lands, sending back dispatches, cutting paths in the wilderness, steering by a new compass.
When I got the email offering me a teaching position this fall (see previous blog), the first thing that occurred to me was that I would surely have been able to talk myself into taking the job if only I could talk. But I can’t. I could never lecture to a room full of eighteen year olds in my current physical condition. So, even though maybe my doctor can get my voice back online in seven weeks, I can’t start drawing a paycheck in August, not knowing whether I’ll actually be able to deliver the goods to my students and my department further down the road.
So, croaking, whispering, and generally struggling to be heard have definite advantages.
I have a wonderful friend named Carol who is one of the people I check in with whenever I want to make an important decision or confirm my own doubts about something. She agreed that I’d made the right decision. But interestingly, Carol didn’t want to talk about my speaking voice but my singing voice. That’s been another great fear of mine. I have this wonderful classically trained singing voice and I’ve done almost nothing with it over the last eighteen years, ever since I moved to California. I’ve been scared that I’ll never sing again, and that seems indescribably awful. So I have to have faith that I will get my voice back, because the other option is not acceptable.
Carol told me about a television special she saw on PBS this week about the research a Chinese doctor has done on the connection between the singing/chanting voice, the heart, and the cells in the body. Hearing her talk about this was astonishing to me because another blogger, Tayria Ward (doctortayria), had just written a blog about how indigenous people believe that all true thinking occurs in the heart and how even scientific researchers like Childre and Martin, from the Institute of HeartMath “have discovered the brain in the heart, neurons in the heart that are the same as those in various subcortical areas of the brain.”
Carol said that she thought of me immediately. Even though she knows my writing is important to me, she told me that she thought singing was even more important. “Even though you can’t talk, you must sing with whatever voice you have. Create your own mantras that seem to connect yourself to your heart. Joy, you truly have the most beautiful singing voice I have ever heard. I don’t think you realize that.”
“Of course I don’t realize that,” I joked. “I’m the world’s biggest idiot when it comes to recognizing my own talents.”
I suddenly got a strange feeling. “Is the name of the Chinese doctor Zhi Gang Sha?”
It was. Synchronistically, back in February of 2003, after I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time, a friend of mine who had been in healing workshops with me had sent me Dr. Shaw’s book. I actually had a book by the man Carol was suggesting I pay attention to—although I hadn’t read it yet.
Sometimes I think there is all kinds of miraculous stuff going on around us, but we just miss out because we aren’t paying any attention. When we start trying to be aware of patterns, they begin popping out all over the place, as if everything were connected.
I promised Carol I would sing every day. I promised another friend Melody that I would dance. I promised myself that I would write. To me, these things don’t feel just important, they feel like what I must do if I’m going to live. I can’t put my life off for tomorrow any longer. That’s why I turned down the two courses they offered me at UC Irvine today. I truly believe that I won’t survive, I won’t stay in remission, I won’t see old age if I don’t start living and expressing all of my creative gifts, those things I’ve loved with a passionate longing for decades, but never consistently had the courage to dance with.
It will be very interesting to see what happens in my life in months to come. My hope is that this blog becomes a book, that I begin singing to audiences again, and that I finally consistently live the great adventure I’ve always sensed was waiting for me.
I also hope that my words reach out and touch even just one heart, help one person to heal and to live with greater courage. If you’re reading this now, know that this is my gift to you.