I should be thankful that what I have is acid reflux since the other maladies that cause chest pains are really scary. I was kind of hoping, when I found out a month ago that I was neither in cardiac arrest nor suffering from a blood clot in my lungs, that the chest pains would disappear, that it was all in my head. But it wasn’t.
“Are you having a heart attack?” An opponent asked me after a tennis match last week. I was pressing on my sternum, rubbing the spot where it hurt. I was still waking up in the middle of the night with this gnawing burn. And there was the issue of my voice, which I lost herding 8 year-olds last December. Since then, it has slowly dwindled down to a croaky squeak. I can’t even sing along with Madonna, who has zero range.
“Why don’t you just stop talking?” Tess said when I complained. Has she met me?
Of course, I got back on the internet and read all sorts of horror stories about hoarse throats left untreated. So I went to the ENT.
“You have a node on your vocal chords,” he said after taking his little camera out of my nose. (Most unpleasant!) “And you have acid reflux.”
“How do you know?”
“Your vocal chords are scorched from the acid.”
“How do I get rid of it?”
“You a big coffee drinker?”
“Oh my God.”
“You can have green tea.”
I slumped in his vinyl mechanical chair. “I go to bed dreaming about my cup of coffee,” I said.
“It will only be hard for the first three weeks.”
He also prescribed speech therapy for the node. “You’ll have to relearn how to speak.”
“It’s too much. I can’t do all that.”
“You sound like Kermit. You have to do it.”
He handed me a blue Xerox of the things I have to give up: coffee, carbonated beverages, spicy food, fried food, tomatoes, citrus, alcohol – and yelling.
He took away all my favorites and I wasn’t allowed to scream.
Now I am at the end of day one. No coffee. Cold turkey.
I drank the green tea this morning. It was miserable.
“Maybe it’s okay if you have just one cup,” Ronan said when he saw the look on my face. He’s no fool.
But I don’t want to be on Prevacid forever. The chest pains hurt and I am sick of sounding like a frog.
In my tennis clinic, I felt like I was running in tar.
“I could never give up coffee,” a teammate said.
“It’s horrible,” I cried. “I’m trying to see the bright side of this. It could be worse.” A bunch of tears spilled out my eyes. “But it really is awful.” I started to panic: My body has relied on coffee since I was in 9th grade – will it even work without it? What will make my heart beat? How will I breathe?
I ate a handful of “sport” beans – jellybeans with B12, sugar and caffeine – that helped me level off.
Since then, I’ve had a strange kind of energy. I’m not tired – I’m strung out. I went on a cleaning binge, even tackling the paper pile. I can’t sit still. I’m on edge.
I really want to YELL! But “ribbet” is all that comes out.