Under cover as a non-singer

I’ve had voice problems for most of the school year:  loss of range, fuzziness, difficulty singing softly.  I went to one ENT in October/November/December, and he didn’t see anything.  He felt it was due to stress–specifically, the stress of working and raising a special needs child who was failing to thrive.  I appreciated that he was a medical professional who was willing to consider the possibility that there wasn’t a simple, discrete, medical answer.

I started voice therapy with the person I had seen when I had nodules.  Honestly, I didn’t get much out of working with her.  I didn’t really start to get my voice back after the nodes until I found myself a solid voice teacher (who has now, sadly, moved to Connecticut).  But this person is the only singer’s voice therapist on Long Island, and going into the city just wasn’t feasible.

The problems persisted, and she insisted that I needed to be scoped with strobe.  I hadn’t heard much about this since I was in college, or when I’d pore over every word written by singer’s ENT (and rock star to me) Dr. Sataloff in Philadelphia.  Over a decade later, stroboscopes are more common, and there was an ENT on Long Island OMG OMG trained with Dr. Sataloff.  She tried to sway me to give a straight scope a try and I was all “HEE-yull to the naw,”* so she suggested I just call and see if he could strobe me with a flexible scope.

I called, and he could.  He found a cyst (which is traditionally viewed as being due to shitty luck rather than voice abuse or poor technique, although recent research has been questioning that) on one side and a reactive nodule (usually due to abuse/poor technique, but this one is just because the other cord got tired of bumping up against the cyst) on the other.  In addition, the “cyst” side was “lazy” (paresis…much more minor than paralysis).

By the way, the person before had been scoped with a rigid scope, and the picture was GORGEOUS.  The cords were about 6 inches long on the screen, and every thing was so beautifully clear.

A cyst doesn’t usually respond to therapy–although a node does.  Paralysis/paresis often resolves on its own.  We decided to stick with the voice therapy for a bit.  I did, and no change.  The next step was to treat the paresis.  In March, I had a very temporary injection next to my sluggish cord to push it over, so the other cord didn’t have to work so hard to meet in the middle.  I opted to be awake rather than knocked out,** but they hooked me up with a small dose of Versed and Fentanyl, so I really didn’t give a crap what was going on.  I wish I could buy that stuff on the street.

Anyway, I had to be silent for 3 days, then take it easy for a couple more.   I had just 1-2 days at work in which my voice was very weak, but I had a good range, and it was “easy”….and then I came down with a cold and a cough, so I didn’t really get to see if it worked.

In the spring, everything was still the same, and we were approaching the 9-month mark (the magic point at which it was unlikely to spontaneously resolve) for the paresis.  It was time to talk surgery.

On June 24, I had the cyst and the node removed, and I had the longer-acting (9 months or so) injection into my lazy cord.  The surgery went well, although I had my terrible reaction to anesthesia (akathisia in my legs) combined with panic that resulted from nausea.  I got stuck in the PACU for a long time because my heart rate was so much higher after surgery.

For the next 7 days, I was not allowed to speak a single word.  I wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavy, have sex, bear down for any reason, etc., etc.  I used a lot of “google translate,” and my mom came out here to help with my daughter.  (I found that not as helpful as I had hoped–it turns out that I’m significantly more tuned into her than anyone else.  On the other hand, by the third day, she responded to questions asked with google translate).

Seven days post-op, I got checked out.  Everything looked great.  I was cleared to speak (softly, without any background noise) one minute out of every 10 and start voice therapy.

Four days into that (3 days before I was allowed to speak 2 minutes out of every 10), my husband left me and wouldn’t tell me where he went.  I begged him to stay just until I could speak more, or even just a day (I was supposed to have a completely different–uterine–surgery the next day), but he wouldn’t.

Compliancy was impossible from that point on.  Even if I had had extra help 24 hours a day, I’m still the one who’s most attuned to her and, more to the point, crying is one of the most taxing activities for the voice.  Even if I had 2 nannies, there was no way to avoid crying, and it was completely ridiculous for anyone to expect me to either not reach out for support or to only do it by e-mail.

So here I am, 3.5 weeks out, and I have no idea how much voice is.  I’m going in Monday to get scoped again, and I’ll find out if there are any signs of scarring.  My speaking voice sounds great, but my singing voice goes WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY before my speaking voice does, so I can’t trust it.

It’s terrifying.

I’ve been reading around, and apparently I will have a different voice.  Even if it’s basically the same, I have to re-learn how to singing without doing whatever forms of compensation my muscles had been doing in order to try to close around those bumps, and that’s nothing minor.

It’ll be another 2.5 weeks at least until I’m allowed to do any singing at all

* I have a phobia of vomiting, seeing/hearing vomiting, getting air sick, and gagging.  A rigid scope goes straight back in your mouth; a flexible scope goes up the nose and down behind the uvula.

** The phobia extends to anesthesia–especially when a breathing tube is required.

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