Monthly Archives: October 2013
Dave and I were watching a movie the other night when the phone rang. It’s too far away from the living room to read the caller ID display; normally we’d pause what we were watching and get up to check, but this movie was being streamed through Dave’s computer and we couldn’t easily pause it. So we figured we’d just check to see if there was a voicemail when the movie was over.
About 15 minutes later, Dave cocked his head and then jumped up. I couldn’t figure out what was going on – he was acting like he heard something, but all I’d heard was the sound from the movie. He went to his computer and paused the video, then went down to answer the door.
My mom was standing on our front porch, brandishing her laptop. “Did you get my message?” she asked as we invited her in. “No – wait, did you just call?” Dave said as he took her laptop from her. “Yes – I don’t know what happened but all my stuff disappeared. All the stuff written on the top, how I get to my bank and Facebook …”
She went on to explain what was missing as we brought her laptop into the dining room and opened it up. She uses Internet Explorer, which I’m not familiar with (I use Firefox and, before that, Chrome) but it sounded like she was missing her bookmarks toolbar. I took a chance and right-clicked in the toolbar area, got a drop down box, and saw that her Favorites toolbar was unchecked. I checked it and voila … all her bookmarks showed up again.
After I showed her what I’d done to bring it back (I know it’s easy to accidentally click on things and have toolbars appear and disappear) we headed into the kitchen to feed her some of Dave’s birthday cake (coconut cake with a wondrous Swiss meringue buttercream frosting that I discovered this year … way, WAY better than the kind with powdered sugar which I find to be too sweet).
I knew she’d been out to visit my brother and his family the night before and that they were going to a Halloween party, so I asked what they dressed up as. I heard her say, “Joe was broccoli.” I thought, well, that’s kind of different but it could be a cute couples costume if his wife went as another type of veggie or food. I was distracted at this point, trying to picture how they made the costume (or maybe they bought or rented it?) and I heard my mom saying something about cutting a wig for him. Then I envisioned a green (curly, maybe?) wig, or maybe it was more of a head topper thing and not really a wig, and she just trimmed it so it wouldn’t get in his eyes?
I was in a bit of a reverie, imagining how this costume had come together, and my mom was still explaining. “Yes, he had a black eye, and blood on his face …”
“Wait, Mom,” I interrupted. “What did you say he went as?” Bloody black-eyed broccoli was just not making sense.
“Rocky,” she said. “You know, Rocky Balboa?”
Dave and I headed back to the VA hospital on Monday for his dermatology appointment. During his Hepatitis C treatment, a spot on his back started to change and the doctor wanted him to have it looked at. It was always a little gnarly-looking, but during treatment it would randomly bleed and it developed more of a cauliflower shape. (He’s had this mole-like thing for, he figures, around 20 years or more.)
I was a little worried, I admit; being the worrier that I am, I had frequently Googled ‘skin cancer’ and I was pretty sure that’s what he had. The doctor came in and we talked for a bit; our conversation was going so smoothly that neither of us bothered to fill her in on our respective hearing losses. We usually don’t mention it unless we’re having trouble hearing/understanding somebody; at the hospital, that would usually be a doctor or nurse with a heavy accent or tendency to talk to us while they’re looking away (writing or typing or whatever).
The dermatologist took a look at Dave’s back and casually said, “Oh yeah, that’s a basal cell carcinoma.” Before I could freak out, she went on to say that it’s really common, easily treated and usually isn’t the type to spread. She proceeded to look over the rest of his body and found one more spot that she said was a very early stage of basal cell carcinoma, on the top of his head.
As this was all happening, I was following what she said very easily. She didn’t have an accent and she spoke clearly. I really felt like I didn’t have a hearing loss at all; it’s very easy to get lulled into thinking you’ve reached a point where you don’t need accommodations anymore.
She explained that she was going to take a biopsy of the thing on Dave’s back, and we’d get the results in about a week; depending on how invasive it was, he’d either have it scraped off or cut out. Then she turned away and slipped a blue mask over her mouth. After that, it was like 70% of the conversation dropped away for me. I could keep up by catching a word here and there and guessing at the content of the rest of her sentence, but it was so much work.
At one point, she turned away completely and asked a question. I could tell it was a question by the inflection in her voice, but I hadn’t understood even one word of what she said. Dave gazed at me over her shoulder, raising his eyebrows in a “What do I say?!” kind of way. He hadn’t caught the question fully himself. I had to shrug and mouth, “I don’t know!” Finally he started telling her about our canning adventures; he had guessed that she’d asked what our plans were for the day and apparently he guessed correctly, because she continued the conversation with no ‘What the heck?!’ expression on her face (what we usually see when we respond inappropriately to an unheard question).
I could follow her a little better when I knew what the subject of the conversation was, but I was still having to work very hard to keep up. If she had asked me a question directly, I would have definitely told her I was deaf and hearing with cochlear implants, and needed to see her lips. But she slipped the mask off fairly quickly and, once again, our conversation became 100% clear to me. She went on to zap Dave’s head with liquid nitrogen (he was not pleased!) and gave us instructions on taking care of the area where she took the biopsy.
The whole experience really made it clear how much I still use visual clues to ‘hear.’ I can go for so long with no problems because I spend most of my time with Dave, and I can carry on a conversation with him from another room – I’m so used to his voice, I don’t need to see his face to understand. My cochlear implants work so well in most situations that I can get lulled into feeling like my hearing is 100% normal with them. Then I have a situation like the one at the dermatologist’s office, and I get served a little slice of humble pie.
It’s all good – no complaints here; believe me, I will never complain about my cochlear implants! I just need to remember that my eyes are just as important as my ears in my whole hearing experience.