Finding My Voice Through “Quotes and Notes”

In case you need to know where the “quotes and notes” came from, here is the explanation.

Recently, throughout the fall and winter, I have seen some interesting changes in my writing life. I have been finding my voice. As you may know, a couple of years ago I lost my vocal cords to a cancer operation called a laryngectomy. I spent an interesting six months not being able to talk at all and then I was fitted with a tiny prosthesis in my throat that allows me to use other muscles to talk. I have been getting better and better at talking.

I have written a book titled Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days, facing cancer treatments with humor and optimism. The book deals with questions for others who ask, “what happens when I am treated for cancer?”

Our new book is almost ready to print. The publisher is working on the formatting now. I knew the release date was coming and last October, in observance of Breast Cancer Month, I told my Facebook followers that I would post a motivational and annotated cancer quote every day for the entire month. I didn’t know if I had it in me to write such a post every day for 31 days, but I pushed myself. I succeeded.

The effort was well received. A lot of people started following and several cancer victims thanked me profusely for the help they got from the posts. At the end of October I said, “Well, there it is, I hope you liked it. I’m done.” I received a lot of requests to continue writing the motivational posts so I told Dekie that I wondered if I could do a quote and note every day for a year. It’s a daunting project but now I am over two months into it and going strong. I switched from an emphasis on cancer to one of hope, optimism, and happiness.

A lot of my friends do not use Facebook so I started sending them the daily posts in an email. Then it occurred to me that I had set up a blog page before I got sick. Last week I went back and re-worked the John Schulz author blog page and started posting my “Quotes and Notes” articles on there.  The daily articles are short, make you feel good, and leave you with the statement, “Everything is going to be all right.”

Here is my favorite post from that site. (click on the title). If you wish, you may go to the site and sign up to receive the quotes from the site in an email.

I have found my voice.

The only strength that can overcome adversity

Posted on January 9, 2015by John Schulz

Quotes and Notes, January 9, 2015

“One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.”

–Albert Schweitzer

As one may become stronger by practicing optimism, the same may be said about successfully dealing with ill fortune. When I lost my vocal cords several years ago and had to live for six months without a voice at all before getting a prosthesis, I made up my mind to become a motivational speaker some day. My voice is evident in my writing and last night I gave a successful reading for the Rome Area Writers organization.

What a good feeling that was! Push on and overcome. While you’re at it, share a smile.

Everything is going to be all right.

John P. Schulz

 

John Schulz gives a motivational talk to the Rome Area Writers.

John Schulz gives a motivational talk to the Rome Area Writers.

 

By the way, the book will be out in early February. The name is

Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days–Facing cancer treatments with optimism and humor

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man.

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Copper Troughs and Cancer Reports

I’ll start with the trough. My beautiful friend Lisa Landry owns and operates a delightful home décor shop on Broad Street in Rome, Georgia. She called me a couple of weeks ago and told me that she was preparing to move the shop to a location one block down and across the street.

The first thing she asked me about was a tree to go inside. It’s a neat idea and I have that one under control. The second thing was a water feature. We talked about all sorts of looks and then settled on using a water trough. Lisa looked at picture after picture until she found this one

A beautiful aged copper trough for a water feature

A beautiful aged copper trough for a water feature

The problem is that I know what the feature will look like and we have a lion’s head to put on the brick wall for the water to come out of—we just don’t have the trough, Can you help us find one? Email me at wherdepony@bellsouth.net, leave a comment on the blog, or find me on face book—John Paul Schulz (Rome, Georgia). Thanks in advance.

I wrote an article about Living and Giving the Christmas of 2011. CLICK HERE to see it. I’ll do another article on the shop after the move. I’m sure it will be amazing.

And on to the cancer report. For background, I have been fighting cancer for several years. I had a laryngectomy (voice box removal) in September, 2012 A few months later I was fixed up with a button in my throat that I could push when I wanted to talk. It’s pretty cool.

I am writing this on March 16, 2014, and a year ago I was going through radiation and chemo treatments for recurring tumors on my shoulder. Everything was tolerable and I got through it but it takes a long time to get over those treatments. I’m doing well but still recovering a year later.

On January 28 of this year Dekie and I went to Emory in downtown Atlanta for a CT scan. I got the scan and we had a wonderful snow adventure in the form of an eleven hour trip home.  (Click HERE to see the article about the trip).

I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but we got a call that same afternoon from the doctor’s office that there was a lymph node abnormality in the scan and that I would need to get a PET scan the next week. That sort of information is a little bit scary, but my reaction, as always, was “Oh, well. I’ll do whatever has to be done.”  The following week I had the PET scan and got the dreaded call that I would have to schedule for a complicated biopsy.

At this point I just accepted the fact that I would have to go through more chemo. Dekie and I started adjusting our spring plans around possible treatments. Another snow storm in the Atlanta area postponed the biopsy until March 12, and last week I went in for a “trans-tracheal ultra-sound guided biopsy.” It was a bit complicated. They put me out for a while.

The day before the biopsy, my friend at the bank said, “I sure do hope it comes out all right.” I told her that I was mentally prepared for bad results.

She said, “John, that’s not your usual positive approach.” I explained that I figured if I set my mind on good results and they were bad, I had lost something somehow but if I accepted that they would be bad, then either I would be right if they were or totally elated if they weren’t.

After the biopsy I was told that I would be notified in a few days. I had already accepted the possibility of chemo treatments.

And, Friday afternoon the phone rang. It was the doctor’s office.

“Mr. Schulz,” the voice said, “I have some good news. The report came back negative. You are clear of cancer. Congratulations.”

I could barely say, “Thank you.” Tears ran down my face. I am still going through the mental process of accepting the fact that the results were indeed good and that I do not have to take the treatments.

I have almost finished an inspirational book about cancer treatments and accepting them with humor, optimism, and a positive attitude. The proposed title is

Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days

–An inspirational approach to reducing fear by facing cancer treatments with optimism and humor.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Final Chemo Treatment at Emory!

The big news is the final chemo infusion is done over with!!!!!!!

When we saw that the little electronic pump that feeds the evil liquid into my veins was empty and that the drip infusion was done, we did a thumbs up and everyone in the bay who had been sharing stories were happy for me.  I got tears in my eyes and didn’t even try to hide them with masculinity. It was emotional.  I’m getting the tears back as I write this.  What a trip that was—7 several hour chemical treatments sandwiched in with 35 radiation treatments.
ringing the bell at the end of my seven chemo sessions at Emory Winship Cancer Center, Atlanta

ringing the bell at the end of my seven chemo sessions at Emory Winship Cancer Center, Atlanta

Then I rang the bell and, as Billy would of said, “They stand and ‘plauded'”
Now I only have 4 more radiation treatments. That will be a piece of cake. I look for some taste to return within the next month and to take 3 months to a year to return fully (according to the people in the chemo bay).
A man and his wife were telling their tales today in the chemo bay and it seems that they had both had bad cancer problems at the same time. He had a bone marrow thing and she had a problem with her spine.  He said, “We would come in for treatment together–“I’d push her halfway in the wheel chair and then we would switch places.” That brings tears to my eyes even now.  It was an emotional day.  Sweetie drove, of course, as i told you, “Sweetie drives on chemo days”
My friend Randy Eidson will drive me tomorrow morning. I guess sweetie and I will share the driving on Friday, and Bob Hicks will take care of the Monday detail.  Sweetie wants to drive for my penultimate radiation treatment on april 2.  I’m looking to sleep late on April 3.  Maybe even until 6 or so.
My weight was down to 176.  I’m sure it will go down a few more pounds before the chemo goes away, but my ideal weight is 170 and I had gained up to 185 before starting the treatments, so I think I will be just fine.  I don’t want to be fat.
All in all, unless something unexpected happens, I have gotten out of this thing with effects much lighter than I expected.  I have not used the feeding tube yet to everyone’s amazement and, you know me, I am stubborn enough to be bound and determined to not have to use it at all.  If you didn’t know me pretty well you wouldn’t be getting this here letter.
I guess that’s all for now.  The tumors have gone the way of the chemo treatments.  Outa here.  I can’t feel them any more and they were most prominent and growing a couple of months ago.  My neck is red and burnt from the radiation, but that too shall pass. That reminds me, constipation is also a side effect but I’ve found a wonderful new item called Phillips Milk of Magnesia. (joke). It really works, just like when I was a kid.
I heard that I could mix it with vodka and have a Phillips screwdriver. Hehe, just had to leave you with that.
I love you, all of you
john.

Aside

Talking: A not so clinical exploration of a laryngectomy.

As presented to  Rome Area Writers, October 11, 2012. After they got through laughing, the members told me  that I should sell this article to a magazine. I decided it would suit me better to put it right here on Johntheplantman. Enjoy—

John Schulz speaking with the use of an electrolarynx

John Schulz speaking with the use of an electrolarynx

The nicest thing about the operation is that I can breathe again.

Breathing is under-rated and taken for granted until…

Until it becomes difficult or impossible to breathe.

Then we notice…Oh, Yeah, then we notice.

A doctor in an emergency room once told me, “Blood goes round and round, air goes in and out. Any deviation from this is not good.” I found this statement funny and quotable until the day I had to pull the truck over to the curb and get out to do some deep breathing exercises just to keep from passing out. That’s when the doctor’s statement rang true.

I have learned a lot about the Larynx (or voice box) over the last two or three years. I have a feeling that I am going to learn a lot more. In case you have forgotten since your high school science class, I’ll refresh you: there are two pipes going down your throat—the esophagus for food and liquids and the trachea for air and sound. The back of the tongue is designed to cover the trachea when you swallow and dump all the swallowings down the proper pipe. One does not want foreign matter in the air pipe.

The larynx is the organic device that makes sound so that we can talk. Most of us know that. What a lot of us don’t know is that the larynx is also the last gate before the lungs. If even a little bit of foreign matter reaches it to the larynx, we begin to cough until that matter is removed. Larger matter in the trachea causes us to choke and to die of asphyxiation and things like that which are not pleasing.

Sometimes, due to cancer and/or other reasons, it is necessary to remove the voice box. This is called a laryngectomy. What they do is cut that sucker out and re-direct the air to a new hole in the neck. This is called a “stoma.”  I knew about stomas because they are also little things on the underside of a leaf that allows for oxygen transfer. Stomas are important.

I knew what was going to happen to me, but it still took some getting used to. I went to the hospital for an operation, got gassed, and woke up with a hole in my throat and no voice.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m always open for an adventure. You know that I am interested in new knowledge gained from new experiences. And you know that I am a true optimist.

If you don’t know me, then please just take my word for it. At any rate I was ready to learn all about my new adventure.

You see, the laryngectomy re-directs the air and it doesn’t move in or out through the mouth any more. I never knew that air through my mouth did so many things. I’m learning. Did you realize that when you take a sip of water, you actually draw it in with air? I didn’t know that until after the operation when I found that I had to drink in a slightly different manner. What about blowing on a spoon full of soup to cool it off before putting it in your mouth? No more of that, either.  I burned my tongue three times before learning.

You can’t blow your nose or spit. No more whistling, I always wanted to go squirrel hunting with an Indian blow gun—that ain’t going to happen, either. The squirrels are safe—but then, again, they were probably safe before the operation, too. One day I tried to gargle with mouth wash—nope, that didn’t work. I keep learning about new things that I can’t do.

But what I CAN do is breathe. I sure do like being able to breathe again and I feel so much better. Breathing is good.

I haven’t really tried it yet, but I’ll bet I can set a new record for kissing because I can do that and breathe at the same time. I won’t have to come up for air.

As I write this, three weeks after the operation, my throat is still swollen from the stitches that were necessary to keep my esophagus from leaking. A leaking esophagus is not good. I had to be fed through a tube and was told that I was not to swallow for fourteen days after the operation. The not swallowing was a difficult assignment. I was very happy the day the tube came out.

I am now waiting for the swelling in my throat to go away so that I can see about getting a new store bought voice box. In the mean time, if I want to converse with someone, I use either the electrolarynx or my notebook and pen. I find interactions with people to be fun, interesting, and sometimes frustrating. I know that not being able to talk is a short range thing for me, but the people I am trying to converse with don’t realize this.

Reactions to the electrolarynx are varied. Most people are not familiar with the purpose of the device and, therefore, are wary of even trying to understand or relate to what is going on as I use it. The therapist told me it takes practice. I have done that and I feel like I’ve made progress in the use of the device. The therapist also told me that the success of the device also depends on the participation of the person with whom I am communicating. A lot of people don’t understand this part.

Writing as a form of communication is fun, also—especially when I mistakenly assume that the other person can read.

A number of people look at my writing and my smile and assume that I am also hearing impaired. That’s when they start making hand motions and moving their lips in an effort to be helpful. When that happens, I write on my tablet in large letters—I CAN HEAR. They usually don’t pay attention to that, though. They just go on moving their hands around and talking loud

One day soon I will be able to talk and breathe. I am looking forward to that.

Thank you Dr. Amy Chen and all of the wonderful people at Emory Hospital. You are all wonderful.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

John Takes An Enforced Break

Well, I guess I should put up some semblance of a post just to let my friends know what is going on. On Sept. 13, I was operated on to have a tumor removed from my carotid artery and to have a laryngectomy. It has been quite the ordeal.

For a while, now, I won’t be able to talk, but, Praise his Name, I can write.  The problem with that right now is a very sore shoulder that doesn’t like for me to type too much. I must be careful.

At any rate, I am expected to live now –unless a car runs over me or something like that–I’ll try to stay away from runaway cars. I am recuperating well and I have been able to ease back into my work mode.

Plant wise, I am spending time deciding what plants to use for the cut flower gardens that I am planning for Lynn, Diane, and Betty. I ordered 500 tulip bulbs yesterday. That’s a good start.

Keep looking for me–I’ll be back!!!

 

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