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3 Month Checkups

Yesterday I had speech therapy for yet another VitalStim (electrode) session. My therapist has a new student, a young woman who is delightful and makes me laugh while I’m doing my silly vocal exercises. It’s nice to have the third person to lighten things up. They both said they were hearing improvement in the sounds coming out of my throat, so that’s good!

After ST, I went directly to Dr. Ballay the ENT. I think when we set this date for a follow-up he envisioned I would have completed more ST and VitalStim than I have – it took FOREVER for his order for more speech therapy and VitalStim to go through, and then my therapist canceled on me several times over the past month, so I think yesterday’s session was only #6. But Ballay said he could tell a difference between last time he saw me and now, in terms of my voice and breathing, and he asked me a lot of questions. I told him I thought the VitalStim was working but I just needed more of it, and that I thought my swallowing was getting better, slowly. He decided not to scope me and instead we set another follow-up appointment for March 18th, when I should be done with the current ST order which goes through the end of February. THEN he will scope me and we will see where things are with my vocal cords and my swallowing, and if I feel like I want a procedure to fix things or want to just keep waiting to see if it fixes itself. It was a very quick visit.

Today I went back across the river to West Jeff for my 3 month MRI to check for regrowth of the tumor that was removed. As I have already bitched on Facebook, they poked me FOUR times trying to find a vein to put the contrast dye in! And they waited to do it until after the first 20 minutes of no-contrast MRI had already happened. (Every other MRI I’ve ever had, they put the IV in before you get in the tube, and then just press a button when they want to deliver the contrast. I guess they aren’t as high-tech over there at West Jeff as they are at the Touro imaging place or at LSU.) Also, there was no music this time. Just earplugs. And the padding in the head cradle they put you in and tell you not to move was all cracked and dented, so at some point in the time I was in there, the back of my head started hurting where it contacted that padding. And I couldn’t move!!! But I made it through all 30+ minutes without them having to do any of it over again and it didn’t disorient me as much as the last one I remember over at Touro.

The biggest advantage to doing the MRI at West Jeff is that when I was done, I went right upstairs to Dr. Culicchia’s office and he already had the MRI on his computer and he was able to read it for me. No waiting for a radiologist’s report. (That will still come later but I already know what it will say.) Dr. Culicchia said there was NO regrowth at the surgical site, which is excellent news! I’ve been really anxious and sleeping poorly the last week or so anticipating this MRI, so I’m hoping I can rest better now for a while. He also looked at the second tumor, comparing the last two scans to today, and said it appears stable, looked exactly the same, which is also excellent news! He seemed really happy to see me doing so well and he remarked how much better my voice sounded.

I mentioned my eyes to him, that they are better though there is still some slight double vision that gets worse when I’m tired, underslept, etc. And he looked at my eyes and said he’d forgotten I had that deficit, because they didn’t seem as inwardly pointed as they had been before, they looked pretty normal now. (My right eye had noticeably drifted towards my nose post-surgery, so this is great to hear, that it has corrected itself.)

With all of my remaining deficits, he said to keep giving it time. He wants to see me in six months, which would be the end of July, for another MRI and check-up. If things remain good, with no regrowth and no change of the 2nd tumor, and my deficits continue to get better, we’ll probably go to a yearly MRI at that point. Which is pretty much as good as it gets in my position. So all of this was amazingly good news!!!

So no more doctor’s appointments for a while, and only 2x/week speech therapy on Tuesday-Thursday through the end of February. (Well except Mardi Gras, so we’ll probably move that one to LundiGras.) I’m so relieved. Now I just need for my energy to get back to something close to normal. I know, patience.

But all things considered, I am so grateful to be doing so well and to have been afforded the luxury of time to heal by all of you, my amazing community! I will never stop thanking you all for all you’ve done to get me through this. Thank you! I am one lucky woman.

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