I have twice lost my voice to illness. Not just colds and flus either. I’m talking prolonged periods of hoarse talking, effortful breathing and painfully reduced singing ability. And those voice problems have not responded to the usual treatments.
That’s because my vocal problems have not been caused by the usual culprits: bad singing technique, singing in high registers (I’m an alto), talking for long periods of time. Teachers, public speakers and sopranos are renowned for acquiring vocal nodules.
Not to mention those who try to belt out a tune like Whitney Houston.
It would have been helpful to know the treatments were not going to be successful. But I didn’t know. Neither did my doctors. They recommended the gold standard vocal treatment: a combination of speech therapy and vocal rest.
There are not many phrases that make my blood run cold, but vocal rest is one of them. I have always loved singing. I sing at every available opportunity. No matter where I am or what mood I’m in, I can always count to singing to ground me. Singing is like an addiction. Singing is like home.
Singing is like home.
That is why forced vocal rest is so ghastly. There is nothing as agonising as being told you cannot have your favourite thing in the whole world, the one thing you have when everything else fails you, the one thing that brings you home. Nope, sorry, you can’t have that.
To make matters worse, speech therapy did not deliver the promised goods, that is, making me better. The first time I had nodules, I went to speech therapy for years without getting better. ‘Hang in there,’ my speech therapist would urge me. ‘Sure, sure,’ my sarcastic inner voice replied.
Meanwhile, I went kind of mental.
The second time was just as devastating. But I complied with the treatment. I was highly motivated. I quit all singing. I went to speech therapy. I did the prescribed vocal exercises. Once again, the promised goods did not arrive. I felt like I was going insane.
I felt like I was going insane.
I will never forget the day I went to see my speech therapist in tears.
‘Help me,’ I pleaded. ‘I can’t live like this. I have to get back to singing.’ Well, she did the best thing in the world. She listened to me. She sat back and thought for a minute. ‘Maybe we’re missing something,’ she said.
She organised some extra tests, and long story short, she found an underlying illness that was making me sick. It wasn’t bad singing. It wasn’t overuse. It was a sneaky, conniving disease roaming my body that was causing my vocal problems.
The only treatment was to inject steroids straight into my vocal chords. (Yeah. You can imagine how enthusiastic I was about doing that.) I told them I would wait six months. And I prayed. I got everyone I knew praying for me. We asked God, repeatedly and strenuously, for healing.
Guess what? The nodules spontaneously resolved themselves. Not only that, my voice took on a completely new quality post-nodules. My range increased. My tone took on a soul sound. It was as though God had used the whole situation to give me a voice I never would have had otherwise.
God used the whole situation to give me a voice I never would have had otherwise.
I currently have vocal nodules for the third time. I have not sought treatment for it. (No vocal rest, either.) This time, I am simply waiting on God, wondering what he will do next with my voice.
I can’t wait to see what happens.
Has God ever used your illness or bad circumstances to bring about something good? What situations are you facing right now where you need God to do the remarkable? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.