The Voice, End of Week 2

This week, my monkey brain flung large handfuls of feces at me in the form of racing thoughts and emotions as I moved through this second week after finding out that I, a singer and voice teacher, have nerve paralysis of the vocal folds. Truth is, this has been coming on for more than 8 years, and while the diagnosis is its own kind of devastating, there is also relief in finally getting some answers.

I will write a separate post on symptoms. Personal experience is both more colorful and accurate than medical synopsis.

One thing is for sure, everyone’s thoughts and beautiful words are healing balm. (Facebook, phone calls, emails and here.) Thank you!  My students have been very sympathetic, although I realize how long it’s been since I’ve sung well when one of them says “I went to your website and heard clips of you singing.  WOW, I have never heard that voice come from you.”

I know from experience that there is a period of vulnerability in any process where one has to be really kind to oneself, very gentle.  I also know, without a doubt, that my life is going to massively transform, although I can not see the outcome.

Medical options for the condition are contingent on the results of the cat scan. I alternate between furiously gathering medical information and reading about alternative healing, with periods when I still sit, still stunned. As I told Jeanette Maw of Good Vibe University, “the doctor’s diagnosis is only One Reality– I want to learn how to fashion another.”

(Is that something you admit out loud? Does that mean I am being fanciful? Or can I join the ranks of those who have healed in spite of medical opinions to the contrary?)

In moments when I can be proactive, I continue to work  the vocal exercises developed by Jeanie Lovetri , who developed Somatic VoiceWork tm The Lovetri Method.  Jeanie was the one who told me, back in January, that I needed to be tested by an ENT who specializes in singers and to do it sooner rather than later.  I became certified in Jeanie’s method in 2005, and have used it with my own singing students, but this is working the vocal methodology in a whole new and deeply refined way.

The vocal work is physically and mentally exhausting to me right now. After about a half hour I can eke out a few pitches mid-voice.

I also began seeing my Rolfer, Dr. Mary Starich. You can read about Rolfing HERE.  Mary is wondering if fascia-release will have some bearing on helping the nerve impulses to get through to the folds.

Dan Rather, the famous news anchor, once said in an interview that he reads biographies of famous people to give him perspective when reporting all the crazy news from around the world.  I know what he means after reading about the life and death of Zheng Cao, a beloved opera singer who recently passed from stage 4 lung cancer.  Perspective indeed.

Last night I attended a wonderful choral concert by the Cantate Chamber Singers under the direction of Gisele Becker.  As I hear the brilliant vocal music, and read the translation of the French, tears mist my view and a throat lump gathers.

O music of the sap rising in the instruments of all the trees,
resonate with the song of our voices, all too brief.
It is just for a few measures that we join in the myriad figuaration
of your endless rapture, O luxuriant nature.

When we must become silent, others will continue….
But for the present, how can I offer my whole heart as a complement to you?

(Rainer Maria Rilke, as set by composer Paul Hindemith in Six Chansons)

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathy Price says:

    Dear Cate,

    Yes, you may join the healing, my friend. It may not feel like that yet, but I believe visualizing that vocal return is important.

    I’d just like to suggest a couple of ideas: acupuncture for nerve stimulus, though I confess I’m not sure how it would work with the voice, and Joseph Stemple’s voice function exercises.

    I have a colleague who has spasmodic dysphonia and works with vocal rehab patients extensively. I’m going to ask, if it’s okay with you, and see what his thoughts may be.

    Sending you energy and loving thoughts,



    1. Absolutely, Kathy! I have a student with a masters from Westminster and she mentioned someone there–I wonder if that is your colleague? I am off to look up Joseph Stemple. Many thanks for commenting–hearing from you is a super boost. xo


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  3. Linda H says:

    Hi Cate

    Nice to meet someone having had the same experience as myself.
    Nine years ago my voice deteriorated to a whisper in a short space of time. I had just started a small business and I was a solo Mum with two teenage boys at home. I had a traumatic upbringing enduring sexual and emotional abuse from my father, and a mother who turned a blind eye to it all. I had noticed over the years that I was straining unnecessarily when talking, due to nervousness. I ended up with a Ear, Throat and Nose Specialist who gave me a prognosis of Adductor/Abductor Spasmodic Dysphonia and started three monthly Botox injections for the next eight years. At the time a had done a little research of my own and my diagnosis was Muscle Tension Dysphonia, and when hearing of this the Doctor in question poo hooed it. Last year I found out that I could get a second opinion from an Overseas specialist through my insurance. He consequently diagnosed me with adductor spasmodic dysphonia and recommended gel inserted into the vocal cords to puff them up, and hopefully bring the folds together when talking. It worked. But in her wisdom the specialist decided three months later to give me full blast of gel and Botox which caused me to have trouble breathing and speaking for about 2 to 3 weeks, it was right on Xmas, so I was not amused!
    I changed Specialists again. For the last seven months my life has been much less stressful and calmer. My sons are now adults and living their own lives. I work part time only. I decided since I didn’t have a voice and I felt creative, I started a short story writing course, as well as painting. I also have started taking a great interest in my garden. I moved house to somewhere quieter. Consequently, I went for an assessment two months ago. I haven’t had any Botox or gel since 20 December 2012. The specialist could’nt believe how improved my voice has become. The vocal folds are joining together on their own when I speak. The voice is croaky, but that is because I have a blister on one of the vocal cords, and we are hoping that will go away without an operation. I can’t stop talking! I sing! My spirits have lifted. So far I have had no need to look for help, the voice is improving on its own. My opinion is the so called specialists only work with physical symptons, they will not bring into consideration trauma as a cause, consequently they end up making incorrect prognosises.
    Anyway that is my story, and I am so joyful to have a voice, I am like a bird!!!!!
    Linda from New Zealand.
    18 July 2013


  4. Hi Linda,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and finding your way here! There is strength in telling our stories of recovery and change.

    Brava and keep up the great work!


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