Healing is a process and a lifestyle change.
Click here for “My Little Polyp”
It’s been just over three months since I learned my polyp was gone. A month of relative vocal rest and heightened vocal care erased the polyp from my cords and left a minor hemorrhage and mild edema in its place. However, even back in November, as the relief washed over me, I knew the healing process wasn’t over.
At first, I was anxiously cautious. My singing felt amazing, but it also felt distant and timid. Any extra talking, and I felt guilty about socializing. As the demonstration crept back into my teaching, I wondered if I was doing too much. I allowed the holiday season to fatigue my voice and body and was left feeling irresponsible. However, my voice bounced back quickly because my voice was now okay. A day of extra singing or talking wouldn’t completely derail my week. I was going to be okay. It took most of these three months for me to accept that.
The word that stuck with me after my appointment today was mindfulness.
As I sat in the all too familiar stroboscopy seat, I began to feel nervous. What if I wasn’t actually getting better, that I was fooling myself into picking up various gigs, recording projects, and social engagements? What if I had done too much, too quickly?
The laryngologist numbed my nostrils with the bitter taste of Afrin (it’ll clear up any cold symptoms in no time!) and slid the snake-like camera down my nose. Immediately, he uttered positive remarks about my recovery process, and the rest of the exam was a breeze of singing “ee” vowels and pretending to speak to my students about making a peanut butter sandwich to test my speech patterns. The laryngologist and speech-language pathologist both commented on how much softer my fold tissue is now. It used to be stiff and rigid; now I’m getting those nice waves again. Want to see my pretty folds??
As I stopped trying to artificially create pharyngeal space and weigh down on my larynx, my speech became more supple (it’s the first word that came to me, okay?) and free. My cords used to get all squat when I spoke– now they’re nice and long. See?
After the laryngologist left the room, the speech-language pathologist sat with me to discuss the next steps. Luckily, she is also a singer and knows my current voice teacher. It felt serendipitous and reassuring at that moment that my voice teacher and this SLP are familiar with each other and are working together toward my voice and career recovery.
Although we celebrated my continued healing, she said I must remain mindful and vigilant regarding my vocal use. She sensed that I’m a full-speed-ahead kind of gal and advised me to stay cognizant of how my voice feels and sounds. Basically, my cords now reflect the “Broadway bump” that many musical theatre and pop singers have at all times without even knowing it. However, we sing higher in classical music and with much more impact since we are unamplified. She told me essentially that I’m not out of the woods yet, so to speak.
Knowing that this mindset is just a reality of maintaining vocal health as a singer is a daunting and frustrating task, but taking care of my instrument is vital if I want to continue teaching and singing professionally for many years to come. I’m lucky that my polyp could heal without surgery. I also feel fortunate that this didn’t happen when I had any significant contracts coming up. The timing for a vocal injury is never good when the voice is literal money, but I really do feel grateful in so many ways.
I’m singing and teaching more healthily. I’m shifting my career goals. I changed my vocal technique and the team surrounding me. I’m not saying I’m glad the polyp happened, but there are some very positive outcomes I never could have anticipated from what felt like the end of my world in October 2022.
Thanks for reading, and I appreciate everyone who seems genuinely interested in my vocal recovery journey. Singers: these injuries are so much more common than we are led to believe, and there’s no reason for us to feel shame. We’re vocal athletes, and it’s normal for athletes to get injured. The recovery process is just another sign of our discipline and endurance.