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Chapter 7 | Who can I trust?

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

January - February 2020

“Hands up!” she said. I raised my arms above my head and squatted in front of the dining room mirror for my physiotherapist. She made house calls.* My left wrist and elbow were killing me. I could barely lift a fork. She asked if I’d had issues with my left side before. I laughed, “How long have you got?” It turns out my left leg is shorter than my right. My neck and jaw are more muscular on the left, and my leg and arm are weaker. Even my smile is crooked. She zeroed in on my left wrist. “Your wrist is the victim,” she said as she expertly shook my arm until the joint snapped into place, “The shooter is your elbow.” Who knows how long that arm had been jammed. I felt like I was seeing myself for the first time. I had all of the pieces of the puzzle, but she was the one that put them together. Because I grew up in an emotionally unpredictable household, I tend to focus on one thing at a time, instead of the big picture, in an attempt to have some control over my life. Obviously, that’s an illusion.

February 2014 - January 2015

I’d been on a waiting list for, reportedly, the best E.N.T. (or Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor) in North America. She was an hour late. I slid into the big leather chair and stuck out my tongue. The intern grabbed it, wrapped it in a tissue, and held on tight while she hovered the vocal scope at the back of my throat. As I sang scales up and down, pretty pink cords fluttered on a computer screen. A woman rushed into the room. It was the doctor, “Your left vocal cord is pulling away from your right in the middle of your singing range,” she said as she looked at the video of my cords. I was worried about the tone of her voice. She asked if I'd suffered a trauma, a car accident, or if someone had choked me. “Nope, just Mozart,” I replied. To rule out the presence of a tumour, she ordered a CT scan, an MRI, and another procedure. That “procedure” was hands down the SCARIEST thing that I had ever experienced. A neurologist had me lie flat on a table while he inserted a needle straight through the centre of my larynx. Awake. It was supposed to measure the conversation between my brain and my vocal cords. Then he asked me to humm. My eyebrows shot up. A spear in my throat, tears streamed into my ears as I attempted to make a sound. What if I moved? A sneeze would have killed me. I flared my nostrils as I crushed the hand of my E.N.T. to signal, “GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE.” The E.N.T. yelled for the neurologist to take the needle out. After all of that, he couldn’t give me an explanation for my problem.

The MRI and CT scan thankfully ruled out the big “C.” My E.N.T. decided on a series of procedures that involved inserting dissolvable gel into my left vocal cord to coax it back towards the right. I’d be asleep, thank God. The first attempt made my voice sound thick. The second time I felt like I had swallowed a pillow. I convinced her to do it a third time because I didn’t want to give up too soon. She agreed, and after my final appointment, as always, she rushed in and said there was nothing more she could do. I was devastated. I asked if there was anyone else I could see. She said no, and hurried out of the room. I put my coat on. “Maybe you could sing Karaoke?” the intern said. Amazingly, it wasn’t a joke. Shaking, I said, “Never, ever, say that to a professional singer.”

December 2015 - February 2016

For over two years I felt completely lost. A friend finally suggested I see this guy who did neuro-feedback on musicians with injuries. She said he was a little weird. But I went anyway.

The neuro specialist's office was so far away it felt like traveling to the moon. The waiting room walls were covered in photos of him as a piano prodigy as well as a multitude of diplomas. Weirdly, there were stuffed monkeys scattered all around his office. There were also a handful of silk boxes containing silver stress balls. What? At the very first appointment, he rolled around on his exercise ball and asked a ton of questions about my voice and then, my sex life. He casually brought up a big scandal that had blown up that morning. I said that I’d known the man in the headlines for years. Shockingly, he asked me if I’d ever slept with him. Sadly, I did not walk out at that moment. I was desperate to get my voice back. This kind of behaviour in the music business is nothing new. At the fourth and last appointment, this medical specialist told me he’d always had a thing for blonde hair and blue eyes like his childhood nanny. Thankfully, I got out unscathed.

I so needed a qualified, normal human being to tell me what was going on with my vocal cords. I was willing to relinquish control. But only to someone I could trust.


Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

*My Physiotherapist USED to make house calls before, well, you know....

Recommended to me by a pianist, my physio, whose clinic is based two hours outside of Toronto, also happened to take Harp lessons every two weeks in the big city. Before and after her lessons, she'd book a Toronto client. What a gift!

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