…… 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.
Thank you for sharing this tremendous news. Annie is not the only one with tears in her eyes. You have shared you journey with so many people, known and unknown to you. You have shown such courage, accompanied with much humour and pathos along the way, hitting highs only to be thrown down to the lowest point, never once pitying yourself, in all the suffering you have undergone. Any plans to publish a sequel to your first book ? I do hope so – it will represent hope and a light at the end of the tunnel, for those who are now confronted with entering their ‘own long tunnel’. I am nipping downstairs to play your lovely song ‘I want to dance with you’ and hearing your voice will make my day! May you and Annie finally find peace and joy once again, for the remainder of your lives together. May every sunrise and sunset be always beautiful for you. Bless you both.
I understand Annie`s response I was visiting a a friend who had been in intensive care for three weeks and had had a tracheotomy. His progress had been good enough to be moved to a side ward. He was still connected to the the tubes but was able to speak – although rather like a Dalek I found myself quite emotional. So I guess Annie was really moved.
Not that I’m any kind of expert, but I know that under normal circumstances vocal chords lose their flexibility when they’re not used so much. It that’s right then it’s possible that with more (gentle!) practice your range and precision could improve.