A Professor’s Tumor In exploring aphasia from the inside out, an SLP finds more than just a communication problem. First Person/Last Page
Free
First Person/Last Page  |   June 01, 2017
A Professor’s Tumor
Author Notes
  • Michael Susca, PhD, CCC-SLP, BRS-FD, is an associate professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of the Pacific. msusca@pacific.edu
    Michael Susca, PhD, CCC-SLP, BRS-FD, is an associate professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of the Pacific. msusca@pacific.edu×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Aphasia / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   June 01, 2017
A Professor’s Tumor
The ASHA Leader, June 2017, Vol. 22, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.22062017.72
The ASHA Leader, June 2017, Vol. 22, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.22062017.72
Imagine that while hiking with some friends, you step on ground that suddenly gives way and you fall far, ending up in a large, dark cavern. After catching your breath, you can see your friends high above through the hole you created, but it’s hard to hear them. Now imagine one of two scenarios:
  • You can’t see much. You have no tools. You’re alone and a little claustrophobic. This is unfamiliar territory for you. You’re scared.

  • You are a spelunker. You have a powerful pocket light, full Swiss knife, and other useful gear. You have an opportunity to explore your new environs.

Many people who acquire aphasia find themselves in the first scenario. When I—a speech-language pathologist who has treated people with aphasia, taught aphasia, and discussed such cases with a medical SLP wife of many years—took my “hike,” I was in the second scenario.
My neurosurgeon thinks my meningioma grew over the intersection of my left frontal, temporal and parietal lobes for about 10 years, before he did brain surgery to remove it. Upon my awakening he diagnosed “expressive aphasia,” which did not include my concurrent lack of language comprehension. Additionally, I was aphonic from an intubation mishap. This is not such a good place to be in as an SLP and professor, but not an unfamiliar place. Still, recovery was difficult.
I share this story in my book, “The Professor’s Tumor.” As much as I knew theoretically and objectively, there was still much to learn from the subjective experience. I was aware I was without words and language, early on realizing I had aphasia without being able to retrieve the word to describe it. I realized I couldn’t understand what was said to (or around) me, but knew how to take other cues from my environment to figure out what was being communicated.
As I regained language, I also engaged strategies to compensate for my verbal and literal paraphasias. As I regained voice, I revealed my anomia and apraxia. Step by step, I learned about my deficits and engaged idiosyncratic strategies to compensate. I learned about and grew from my aphasia from the inside out.
Is aphasia only a language problem? Not in my experience. One’s (or at least my) language was also affected by other things not always evident: energy to process and produce thoughts, feelings, wants and needs; attention to the pertinent and inattention to the non-pertinent; vigilance to self-monitor and endure communicative interactions; speed and amount of processing and production of verbalizations; and self-awareness at all times. Beyond that, there is the sense of one’s being in the moment and drawing from emotional resources to drive all of these qualities of being.
As people, we connect through communication. The connection may be disrupted in many more ways than through speech, language and voice alone. My experience with and recovery from aphasia has taught me to appreciate the entire person beyond the communicative disorder I was trained to address.
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
June 2017
Volume 22, Issue 6