Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Vocal Rest

Almost 10 years ago I got laringitis for the first time ever. It was during my first paid singing job for the Disney Company. I had rehearsed for 3 weeks, and we were heading towards performance week, which in this case was 1 week of performances-26 to be exact. It was for the premiere of the film Hercules. We were in a live pre-show of the film...similar to some of the shows you see at the Resort. We were performing in the Chicago Theatre. We performed 3 or 4 times a day right before the movie, kind of like a movie theatre schedule. 3 days into our 1 week of performances, my voice was completely gone. There was little lead up, just one morning, goodbye voice.

I panicked. I was barely 18 and still living at home, so my mother and I started calling every otolaryngologist we could find to schedule an appointment. Finally we found one that could see me before my first show on day 4. He took a look, listened to my dilemma and gave me some cortisone to get through the next 3 days with a promise to follow-up with an appointment. I promised. The cortisone worked like a dream (my fellow castmates had let me in on that I knew how to approach the doctor), and I was able to finish the performance week. There were no understudies, so it is a good thing this worked out.

After the show closed I went to see an amazing specialist in Chicago, Dr. Bastian. He took some photos of my vocal chords and found a swelling on either side that was touching together and thus hardening the swelling into a nodule. He prescribed me with vocal rest, as these swellings were from abuse and overuse. That meant no talking. I think this lasted at least a week. I got very good at writing very fast...and creating my own signs. After a time, the swelling had no significant change and he told me he could operate and remove the nodule or I could adapt. I chose to adapt.

After that I finished a college music program, and sang several demanding roles in DC-area regional theatres. This was 8 shows a week, working full time during the day, and teaching voice on the weekends. I took good care of my voice, drank a lot of water, and never lost my voice.

That brings us to now. I do not have laringitis like that time in Chicago, but ever since this spring (and the most horrible allergy season to date), I have felt that my chords are swollen. I have not had this confirmed, but this past week, there is no sound on certain notes and pitches. I am getting nervous about this, so I put myself on vocal rest. My husband explained to my daughter that I was like Ariel and had no voice. She has been really patient with me, lip-reading, and trying to decipher what I am saying. She also sometimes catches herself doing it back to me. I quickly motion to my ear and mouth: I can hear you, you can talk out loud. It's so sweet.

Being on vocal rest takes a lot of discipline. I went to the zoo with my kids and my friend today, and I only broke a few times, once when I couldn't find my baby....but my friend was so patient with me too. I have to shoot the rest of the Nuvaring stuff tomorrow and it is SO much copy, so I will have to talk, but before and after and on Friday I am still going to rest. I just hope that I can get the recording that I need to, done on Saturday. It is coming to an end, and I am starting to get nervous about my voice holding up. I also, don't want to go to the doctor because A. it is expensive and B. I do not want an operation and C. I am scared to see how big the nodule has gotten.


cousin derek said...

Being married to one, I know that singers lie awake at night worried about nodes. What a nightmare. Take care of yourself -- we'll be thinking of you.

Your mom said...

Take care of yourself. No phone calls... we will talk when you are feeling better. Love you.

Heather O. said...

Have you considered speech therapy? Seriously. We see a lot of people with nodules, and they can be caused by abuse, overuse, etc., even if you are not a singer.

Also, during your period your voice can change slightly, and you are more at risk for a vocal hemorrhage at that time. Just an FYI.

Kage said...

heather o, thanks for the tips. I haven't considered therapy b/c this is only my second incidence in 10 years, and the first was FAR worse. Just a few days of vocal rest last week made ALL the difference in my recording session on Sat. So, until the record and my appearances (all in Dec.) are over, I am going to be treating myself to some vocal rest regularly. My kids will benefit b/c I will not yell as much, I have taken to a little whacking them on the arm though to get their attention....maybe I will get creative and come up with something less physical : )
...and good to know about the period is possible that the correlation was not a coincidence this past week.