…… I’d forgotten what you sound like….. this is very emotional – you’ve made my day”.
My friend Grace is a bit taken aback when she hears me speak for the first time since the voice procedure. I’m much cheered by her response – it’s hard for me to judge sometimes. I can hear a difference, but I can’t easily judge how much of one.
I’m also surprised by Grace’s response because I am not hearing what she hears. I don’t think I sound like I used to. I wish now that I’d recorded my voice before and after each procedure; that would have been the scientific way.
This I do know; I can speak without running out of breath. And I can – dare I say it – sing. Well – a bit. This is not a voice that you would pay good money to hear. I discover this ability in the shower one morning. Although I’ve managed to ‘sing’ a few times before, it’s different this time. No running out of breath after each word. I call Annie to come and hear; she runs from the kitchen and listens with tears in her eyes, the onion peeler still in her hands.
It’s still a bit croaky or raspy – I find I have to clear my throat a lot. And it’s not loud or strong. It fades if I increase the volume. Or speak at length. So while conversation has become easier, something more demanding, like a long detailed explanation, has not. A new career as an orator is clearly out of the question.
My friend Neil (from Fat Freddy’s Cat) phones to check on progress; he too is pleased to hear me. Rehearsals beckon. I explain that it’s early days as far as singing is concerned. He’s very encouraging; “But you always sing in tune – that shouldn’t be affected”. Hmm – I’m not so sure. My current attempts are sometimes flat – notes miss their target. It feels out of my control – I know the note I want to hit, but the one I hear is not it. I don’t know if this is something that can be re-learned or just comes back naturally. And then today, as if to remind me just who is in charge, my singing voice disappears. Nothing – not a peep. I’m not unduly worried. I assume it’s just having a bad day and that it will return. It just reinforces the feeling that life has become totally unpredictable.
I’m due to see Mr ENT in two weeks for a post-procedure review. This has added importance since I was out of it for most of the time and so I’ve no real idea of what he actually did. I will tell him about my vocal dexterity in the shower. What he’ll make of it, I’m not sure. The first time we met he was confident about speech – “I can give you a speaking voice” – but as far as singing is concerned, he was much like me – silent. I don’t expect him to offer another injection or thyroplasty¹ (which was something we did discuss at one stage). But I do want advice and guidance on how best to preserve or even improve upon what I currently have.
From time to time I look back at some of the earlier entries in this Blog. It’s a handy reminder of times when I thought my world had ended – but clearly hadn’t. Things go bad – and then they get better. But good and bad can be relative. It’s a bit like living in a lift, where the ground floor is never in the same place. You can go up and down just fine – but you never end up back where you started. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sing in public again – and perhaps, in the end, that’s not important. But singing with friends is. I’ll be happy if the lift stops at that floor.