KANSAS CITY, Mo. — June 30, 2023. That was the last time I was on-air at FOX4.
I remember telling my co-anchor at the time, Pat McGonigle, something’s not right, I don’t feel good.
He said, “You need to go, you need to get out of here, you need to see what’s wrong.”
I knew what it was. It was back. The cyst that had attached to my trachea, in my sternum and chest area, had returned from six years ago. And it was infected… again.
I immediately went to the emergency room. I was admitted. I remember spending the 4th of July watching fireworks from my hospital window. I remember asking myself over and over, “How did I get here? Why is this happening to me?”
But I remember trusting the process.
Doctors at Saint Luke’s Hospital on the Plaza would spend a week debating the best options for me. Do they remove the cyst, drain it, or leave it alone?
By the end of July, I would have surgery to remove it, but there were risks.
“The place where you had the cyst was kind of close to the course of where that laryngeal nerve or the nerve that controls your vocal cord function. Very close,” Dr. Valerie Wood, an otolaryngologist, explained.
Dr. Wood is an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
“I knew your voice was important to you,” the doctor said.
For 15 years, I’ve been using my voice in broadcast news. And I didn’t know a whole lot about my vocal cords. I knew it took me years to develop my voice, but I hadn’t put much thought into how it functions…. Until now.
“On the right-hand side that nerve goes down next to your carotid artery, at the level of the collar bone and the upper chest area, it loops around a vessel and then comes back up behind your thyroid gland to give motion to your vocal cord on the right,” Dr. Wood described.
“And on the left, it goes all the way down in the chest loops around the vessel near your heart and comes back up to give motion to the vocal cord on that side. You had a cyst or growth kind of right here in the upper part of the chest attached to your trachea. There was going to be really close proximity to where that nerve was. A necessary risk is that the vocal cord is close by and removing that could affect it.”
After surgery I was diagnosed with right vocal cord paresis.
“What is interesting is that your vocal cord is not moving well, but it’s more toward the mid-line. We would call that paramedian or median position,” Dr. Wood said.
There was a moment I remember feeling defeated and heartbroken. But I was still holding onto my faith. Many of you, the FOX4 viewers, were sending messages and emails, even calling the station, asking about me.
After going live on Facebook, the support from viewers began to swell my heart. Your love, prayers, and positive thoughts suddenly lifted my spirit. I knew I was ready to come back, but I also knew I couldn’t rush it.
“You clearly have an amazing career and are fantastic at your job, and I didn’t want to have you go back while you’re recovering from this and have you not do as well and get frustrated and then kind of set yourself back up mentally and physically because we went back too quickly,” Dr. Wood said.
Speech therapy has been crucial in my recovery.
“Making sure that you are using breath support. We’re making sure your neck muscles are relaxed. You’re using good vocal technique is really important as you recover,” Dr. Wood said.
I’m still on the road to recovery, it could take six months to a year to see my vocal cords back at full function, but I believe it will happen.
“I’m really hopeful that I will get to see the day when you come back in, and we see it moving and do a little happy dance,” Dr. Wood said.