I have a slight tendency when life hands me lemons to instantly wring them out all over everyone around me and myself, squishing them into my eyes until I am blind from citric acid and tears and my close friends and family are covered in lemon juice mixed with pity and annoyance. Then I try to take a breath and blindly stumble away from my adult temper tantrum with grace.
Four years ago, I had a cyst* diagnosed on my vocal cords. I could tell you a million, billion sad details about all this and I will eventually when I write my book (Petulant Panda, Why Are You Covered In Tears and Lemon Juice? or possibly Are You There, Julie Andrews? It’s Me, Panda.), but for now, I’ll say that two surgeries, twenty-two plus days of recovery silence, two full readings of the awesome Harry Potter books, one partial reading of the mediocre Girl With the Whatever books, and thousands of medical dollars later, I’m free. I went to my ENT yesterday, who is as handsome as he is skillful, and got a clean bill of health. I have the chords of my teenage self.
Guilt consumes a singer when something goes wrong with her instrument. As far as my two ENTs, speech pathologist, and voice teacher can figure, I developed my cyst after auditioning on cords that had been wracked by a severe 24 hour stomach virus. Good lesson for singers: If you can barely walk or stand, don’t audition. Just don’t. Seriously, fucking don’t. I would give anything to go back and not eff up the next four years of my life. A cyst on your vocal cords forms when you do something little and get a bruise or small injury and then don’t rest at all, further exacerbating the injury until it forms a hard little knot. Untreated and unrested, you now have a big problem.
My cyst eventually formed a polyp on the other side that had to be removed a year after my first surgery. I used to leave my ENT’s office, ugly crying and sobbing into my phone, usually to the Awesome Opossum or my mom. I still feel fear when I go in to get scoped (they put a tiny camera down your nose and into your throat) every six months; I am terrified of what he might find. I still can’t get over the shame of being careless with my talent, but am incredibly grateful it was a fixable problem. I’ve learned a lot about myself and listening to my body and my instincts over the last four years. I’ve also learned that if you think you might get bad news somewhere, bring really big sunglasses with you, so you can cry more discretely on the subway.
*Editor’s Note: I did not have nodes or nodules. I had a cyst and a polyp. This distinction is critical to me and my pride, but it was totally worthless when I couldn’t sing worth a damn.