A Year Since Diagnosis of Vocal Fold Paralysis

IMG_0669Sometimes you look back on the passing of a year and think, “Wow, that went by fast!” But the year since the medical diagnosis and subsequent therapeutic work has felt very, very long to me.

If you’d like to read about the journey so far, medical diagnosis and what I decided to do, please read the posts listed HERE.

I’d like to reiterate that any progress that I’ve experienced (which the medical community would tell you was not possible,) is due to the extraordinary and cutting-edge expertise and care of Singing Voice Specialist Jeanette Lovetri and Healer/Therapist Dr. Robert Sykes. My own personal tenacity, courage and willingness to persevere was a pre-requisite. And my husband reminds me frequently that some of the world’s greatest athletic coaches either have never played the game or are not currently playing their sport, which lets me know he gets it, and that means a great deal to me.

The work of reestablishing neurological connection from brain to vocal folds is pain-staking and certainly doesn’t include any music-making. The mental focus of coordinating muscles and function is exhausting. Also, there is the “cha-cha” effect of two steps forward improvement, only to have one step back.

After my last session with Jeannie, via Skype, she wrote this post on her blog at The Somatic Voice Work tm: The Lovetri Method Teachers’ Association–Coaching An Injured Pro Back to Singing.

There has been tremendous improvement but this is relative.”Tremendous Improvement” actually means that I’ve been able to reestablish chest voice and head voice registration, which means I can phonate on pitch again with some tone and accurate pitch, as opposed to a strangled hiss. But it takes 25-30 minutes to find this registration via specific vocal exercises and mind/body visualizations. I started out needing an hour to find it, and had to rest frequently.

Evidently, we are doing some of the exercises following ideas put forth by Silverman Technique for Parkinson’s Disease, practiced by qualified speech pathologists.

Right now there is limited ability to “Sing,” as in,’string sounds together in a musical manner.’ Singing five tones together on one vowel is still very difficult. Every once in a while, a full sung note of great beauty and strength will escape and make me hop up and down with tremendous excitement.

And also every once in awhile I sing two or three phrases together that actually feel better than anything I was able to sing from 2006-2013. Jeannie thinks I may be able to sing a simple song straight through in 6 months or so. If this is successful in that way, I will become part of a team of singers, lead by Jeannie, who have gotten their voices back after the medical community said it was highly improbable, and we will present our results to the public. Cutting edge stuff!!

Students have noticed the vocal improvement, but it is still bittersweet. They do not know me as a performer. Some of them are surprised that I had 27 successful years performing as a singer of classical music since I have only a few recordings for posterity. I did not allow recordings my last 4 years performing, because I was not singing well–now I know why.

But after the past 13 months of voice therapy and counseling, I felt it was time to move forward with my work as a teacher of singing and musician. How could I best be open to Inspiration and be inspiring to others while finally letting go of my identification as a working singer?

As I moved through the emotional and psychological quagmire of the situation, I began to feel ready to work with more groups of singers on a regular basis. Seasonally, I lead choral workshops (click HERE for a list of clients) but regularly week to week, I have worked with only one group–The Maryland Women’s Chorus of Levine Music.

And, like magic, when I was truly ready to work with more groups, (and still keep my most excellent private studio!) I was appointed Conductor of all three of the Adult Programs’ Choirs at Levine Music. Even though I have conducted choirs since I was 13 years old–yes, 13 years old! the change in perspective and letting go of the old gave me joy to move into another kind of work with purpose and clarity.

If you build It, It will come. Astonishing, really!

PS. My Etsy shop, which features some of my hobby of refashioning jewelry from vintage pieces, features the last of my Earring Quartets on a Canvas Jewelry Holder. Click HERE if interested! The studs are real topaz and classic pearls.)

4 thoughts on “A Year Since Diagnosis of Vocal Fold Paralysis

  1. Hello Cate, I just found your blog today via another teacher on one of the Facebook voice teacher forums, and I was so touched to read about your experience with vocal paralysis. I’m glad that you’ve had some success with your therapy, and look forward to following your blog posts.


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