Monday, January 28, 2008

goin’ under the knife - northwest shows canceled

so. i have vocal nodes. i am going to have surgery to get them taken off.
this wasn't too surprising, honestly. but the randomness involved in HOW i found out is unbelievable.

i was at the studio one week ago finishing the new dolls recording, emailing during mixing. i'd been bitching about my scratchy voice to a writer friend at the boston globe and she sent a link to an article about a boston vocal surgeon (in fact, here it be) that the globe ran in 2004.
i was in brain-candy mode so i followed the link, read it, thought what the hell, googled the surgeon, found his email address, dropped him a line, and three days later i'm in a tall building in boston getting a scope stuck down my throat while i sing. "yep", they say. "you're a rock singer".

there's a fancy computer showing me what the scope is seeing, revealing the terrible vocal chords look like a vagina. well, to be fair, EVERYBODY'S vocal chords look like a vagina (they must get used to that after a while in the dept on laryngology).
but MY vocal chords look like a vagina that's, frankly, seen better days. i could go into some really uncomfortable poetic metaphors here involving busy and careless hookers but i WONT.

basically, i have what is typically referred to as vocal "nodes" - sort of like calluses that appear after years of battering. lots of people get them. teachers, lawyers, preachers, probably stockbrokers, you name it. if you are normal person and don't need your voice as a tool for your trade, you just deal with them. you have a scratchy voice. if you have a career that involves singing and touring, you get surgery to have them removed. i have been on a downward slop for years now, singing at half-mast because they just keep getting worse. dr. zeitels (i'm a fan - he's rad) has done lots of people. cher. julie andrews. steven
tyler. my favorite actor, jeremy geidt (some of you saw him in the onion cellar). GARY CHERONE OF EXTREME.

and my favorites: ozzy and sharon osbourne were in the office at the same time as me. what better endorsement than that, i ask? i called brian right after my appointment and was like "I have vocal nodes and need surgery and ozzy and sharon were there!" brian was like "OZZZYY!" and i was like "did you hear the part about the surgery?" brian was like "the ozman was sent from the metal gods to guide your voice to freedom".

anyway. long story short: i'll be getting this done in march and they ask that you go easy on your voice leading up the date. then it's 2 weeks of no talking (not even whispering) and another 4 weeks of rehab (and i said no, no, no). the good news is that i will have a shiny new set of vocal chords to sing with and the surgeon is the best in the country and just happens to be in boston. so i lucked out.

i am still going to head out to seattle to finish mixing the Evelyn Evelyn record but i canceled the 4 shows i was just about to announce in seattle, portland, eugene & olympia. i know some of you had already found out and bought tickets, and i'm sorry about that. is what it is. i've never canceled dates like this before, i don't plan to get all winehouse on you. anyone who bought a ticket can get a refund at the point of purchase, btw.

MEANWHILE, i am assured that next time i go into the vox doc i will get photo stills of my node-y throat and of course i will post forthwith because it's NARSTY. if you're really a glutton for punishment, a google image search on "vocal nodes" will probably make you lose your lunch. someone on the forum posted this handy wiki and i am pleased to see i've been added to the list of famous sufferers.

Bonnie Tyler, in 1977, found out that she had nodules that were so severe that she had to have surgery for their removal. After the surgery was performed, she was ordered to not speak for six weeks. One day while healing, she accidentally screamed and her voice took on a raspy quality. max (who's back in town, YAY!) informed me that bonnie tyler (yes, of "total eclipse of the heart fame") screamed because her mother didn't get bonnie strawberries (as instructed) for the ride home from the hospital.

on a brighter and more or less unrelated note:
here's a clip from tour of us covering "sweet dreams (are made of this)" by the eurythmics with our friends in the luminescent orchestrii.


ps "there will be blood" = awesome. saw it tonight.


Chuck said...

Anyone who helped Julie Andrews recover some of her voice after her first fucked-up vocal surgery is pretty cool in my book. And he worked on James Taylor!

Good luck! I hope all goes well.

Chris said...

Good to hear that you caught it now before it got any worse. I'm not sure I could bear to think of what no more vocal music from you would be like. Here's to a speedy recovery!

lentower said...

ms a

follow the medico's directions to the letter please!

and have fun being creatively silent and quiet!

i'm looking to the new improved amanda voice on the old amazing amanda person

best -len

andrea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
andrea said...

I glad you're getting a good doctor to do this. And shit fuck I can't imagine not talking for two weeks. I'd be terrified I'd have to clear my throat or something and just spontaneously cough. I'm sending you good luck, well wishes on a speedy and safe recovery. Your nodes sparked my interest on the subject and I started reading about them and somewhere it said someone got them from a bad cold that they didn't recovery properly from. It made me think, I had a cold once that lasted a really long time and afterwards my singing voice didn't seem the same to me. My voice would crack and it never did that before and how much I could belt out seemed different. It wasn't like my voice turned bad just seemed less controlled. I always used to wonder what happened because it seemed really weird to me. Makes me wonder if I've got the nodes, hmmm. I think I've gotten used to it though.

I've been wanting to see "There Will Be Blood" but I want to read the book first (Oil! by Upton Sinclair). I'm in a film and lit class and we were talking about which movies have been adapted from books, and which ones do a good job. This one girl, who I think is a reliable source, said she loved the book and thought the movie was beautifully done in how it stayed true to the book. I'll have to wait til it's out to rent because with school I have no time to read other things right now. So, thanks for sharing how much you liked it. Just encourages me to read it and see it more.

Take care.

All my love,


Thienan said...

Not talking for weeks?! This looks like a job for ... a magnetic doodle pad!

Good luck!

Olivia said...

Lucky you have mime skills!

Dani said...

Seems like everyone has something to say about you not saying anything. Well I'd be afraid to not be able to talk for two weeks, but somehow I think I'd really enjoy it. Anyway, I couldn't help myself and googled some pics... and boy you weren't kidding. Good luck!! <3

Blue Larkspur said...

I am wishing you luck, a speedy recovery, and hopefully lots of good ice-cream (from Toscanini's, of course) during recovery!

Good luck girl!

Sarah said...

I hope the node extraction fares off well.

Emma said...

Wow, good luck with the surgery, but it looks like you're going to be in safe hands!

The video rocked, btw, thanks for posting. I loved Brian's little dance behind the kit. You guys all seemed like you were having a fucking awesome time!

And you're so super cool to your fans. We love you, too. *grin*

NejZig said...

OZZY!@!!!! He was in Boston?

No wonder you lose your voice by the end of almost every show!
Good luck w the surgery.

muruch said...

I hope your surgery goes well and that your throat vagina heals quickly! :)

June Miller said...

'i called brian right after my appointment and was like "I have vocal nodes and need surgery and ozzy and sharon were there!" brian was like "OZZZYY!" and i was like "did you hear the part about the surgery?" brian was like "the ozman was sent from the metal gods to guide your voice to freedom".'

(Throws up the horns) A-fucking-men.

Surgery/hospitals scare me a good deal. You gotta do what you gotta do, though. You're gonna be fine, anyway. Lots of rest and ice cream! And doodling and other arts and crafts that don't involve vocalizing. Woo!

Interesting fact: In the Wikipedia article, someone added Davey Havok of AFI underneath you as one of the famous people with vocal nodes. I totally knew that already because (fessing up) I used to motherfucking love that band (THEIR OLDER STUFF IS SO EFFING GOOD, DAMNIT) and they had to cancel a hometown show they were planning around that time because of the nodes. C'est la vie.


I have "Total Eclipse of the Heart" stuck in my head now.


My friend who dreams of strings and yarns had a birthday on Sunday and got to see "There Will Be Blood" down in Berkeley. I'm very envious of her. Whatever. I'll make a road-trip again, if I have to.


This is what I woke up to, this morning. Oh, it's no thing for you. Yawn, snow, boring. Us sad Californians don't get to experience it enough, unfortunately. Especially to the point where it actually sticks on the manzanita trees. If you look close enough, you can see the deep red the bark is colored. Pretty, ain't it?


Take care. Go easy on those vocal chords.

Camille said...

Wowiez. Didn't see this coming. Get better soon, my dear.
Well, at least you found out about this now. Who knows how long this would have gone on if your "writer friend" hadn't said anything.
Good luck with everything; we lahhvv you.

P.S - Next time you come to LHS on a lonely Thursday afternoon, please climb on top of the building with a loudspeaker & announce your presence to everyone in a 5 mile radius. ;D

Hubris said...

I recommend going to see Melissa Cross after you recover. She instructs how to NOT fuck up your pipes. Works for me :) But I just used her videos...

Bdan said...

best wishes!

ontheupandup said...

oh no! I went against your recommendation and googled vocal nodes. Vocal chords do look surprisingly like a vagina of some discription. But not pretty. Get well my sweet! xx

not a fighter just a bleeder said...

Oh wow. No talking for two weeks.
I would love that.
I have images of you wandering round with a notebook.

I can't speak. I'm sorry.

I hope it goes well and look forward to your new voice.

Damien said...

I expect that not talking for two weeks is going to be an extremely spiritual experience, for you...

Meditative, even.

eleanor ruby said...

while the thought of you undertaking this surgery frightens me a bit, the thought of your voice suffering any sort of permanent harm downright terrifies me. i know you must be scared, but our thoughts are with you. whatever you do, don't scream! i live in massachusetts; i can bring you strawberries (or whichever type of berry or nonberry substance you prefer) if you like.

good luck, amanda. if you feel the need to speak, write. or play. release release release. take photos of your silence, then come back and blow us away.

lots of love,

Chuculain said...

I hope it goes well for you. Drink lots of tea?

Hugs and kisses from Ireland.

Jack said...

Amanda, can you get in touch with Ian Astbury and suggest he, you know, get checked for these?

drummr1971 said...

Good luck with the surgery and get well soon!

Alameda Green said...

I'm sure you'll find a way to make total silence into some form of beautiful music...I tried the no-speaking thing once, and made it out the door of my house, where I promptly screamed "FUCK" and went back in to get my cell phone.

May your vocal vag be well,

Rob said...

the WONDERS of modern medicine. May they be forever blessed!

heres wishing you a painless surgery, and speedy recovery!!

Aendrea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aendrea said...

OMFG! I´ve just googled it out and on the first page was this picture... i hope amda´s nodes aren´t in this stage..

David said...

A WORD FAST! What could be more WONDERFUL? On so many levels. Please do as you're told Amanda and god speed on your surgery and recovery. Just keep playing your piano.

Sarah said...

Just on a whim...Amanda Palmer and Meow Meow are have a truly unique mixture between the two of you...Brian and you together is amazing, yet, you and Meow Meow makes me speechless.

The presence, the comedy, the stature, everything fits amazingly...

I hope you both come to the L.A. area, so that I may travel my ways worth experiencing the show.

Best wishes, as always

Paul said...

We were sooooo looking forward to your upcoming show in Eugene! We were crushed to hear the news of your condition but hope all goes well and you have a speedy recovery! Please, please, please consider doing a show here again in the future...hell, even bring Brian--take care!

Paul said...

..and when I say "crushed" I mean it was like waking up Christmas morning as a kid and being told "Sorry little one but there will be no Christmas this year."

andrea said...

Thought I'd share this little quote I got in an email.

The more you sing, the more you let go, the deeper you go. And then the deeper you go, the more you let go.
--Krishna Das

(for now however, in your case you might want to change the singing to something else)


Get well =)

June Miller said...


'As long as I have teeth, I will bite at you! And when I no longer have teeth I will GUM AT YOU!'

Some of the most epic bitchslaps in cinematic history had to have taken place in that movie. Very good. Very good.

Further well-wishes sent your way, ma'am.

/ Lari said...

I hope you get better soon,Amanda!
I'm soo excited to see the new album!
and I wish the Dresden Dolls make a show here in Brazil!!

love your music!

kisses! ♥

Ellie G said...

Dear Amanda,

First off, because I haven't commented before, but you are awesome. So. Now that bit of fangirling is out of the way I wanted to let you know that this morning I had a camera stuck up my nose and they found a polyp that has to be removed by surgery! I know it's pretty different, but I was thinking of this post while they were poking about up there. Have some ENT solidarity and commiseration.

I hope all goes well and you recover quickly! I'm looking forward to catching you live and hear those shiny new vocal chords.

Love xx

Shannon said...

Sorry about your voice. I am sure you'll get through it though.

By the way: I just had to make one more suggestion for a solo spot for you to play when your voice is all shiny and new. Its on cape cod and it is called The Black Spot. It used to be the Prodigal Son owned by the ever so lovely Dave and Shelly. They helped so many local bands in their day such as The Ticks and now the Prod's new owner, Micah is trying to do the same. It would really be a boost for the Spot if you were able to make your way in there sometime. It is very small and intimate with some great employees working there. Please help out the local cape cod scene by playing this historic venue.

Chelsea said...

I have to agree with Brian on this one-- if you saw Ozzy at the Vocal-Gyno's office it must mean that you were led there by the metal gods, this is the doctor that will free your voice from the oppression of the nodes!
May your vocal-vagina recover quickly,and may you soon be a-touring again. Yes, I said a-touring.

Amanda said...

Good luck with your surgery and recovery!

My mother had vocal nodes when I was a kid. She's a teacher so didn't have surgery, but did go on total voice rest for like 6 weeks in order for them to heal.

It was a wierd experience. We developed all sorts of strange charades that no one else got, she carried a notepad, etc. In the end, she found it hardest to deal not with not talking, but with people she loved not being able to understand her, when some total strangers found it so easy. I think she finally gave in and would whisper to my Dad at night.

I imagine it will be a totally strange experience for you too. Hang in there.

Rose said...

ohhhh, amanda's vocal chords :( I'm so sad (a) for your chordz, and (b) was looking forward to seeing you. am I right in thinking there's a pseudo-show in Seattle on the 23rd? if so maybe perhaps we'll still be able to come up. would love to see jason webley et al as well.

good luck with recording and recovery, and much love,


sarah said...

i'll make you cupcakes and a get well soon card! :]

cchang said...

That scares me a little just because it is surgery and paranoid me always worries that something wrong might happen...Um I kinda like the scratchy sound? (is it okay to like the scratchy sound, I wonder...) Or, was it super painful to sing with the nodes? Anyhow, I'll be thinking of you for a speedy recovery.

Blue Larkspur said...

To cchang,
nodes can make it much harder/painful to sing, and they can get worse and wreck your voice. So it's a good idea to deal with them before they get too bad. Besides, she's using the Ozman's doc! She's in good hands! (Now....if she were seeing the Ozman's speech therapist, then that would be a different story. ;) )

Jessica said...

Sadly if you continue to use your voice the way you have been using it you will continue to get nodules. Perhaps some technique tweeking is necessary so that you do got get nodules again and are forced to have more surgery later down the line. I am a coloratura soprano and for singers it's soooooo important to use the correct technique, which is based on each persons vocal setup. Btw I also say "There Will Be Blood" and it was great.

I love your music and I hope that you can find a happy medium for your voice/larynx position.


Rose's Books said...

not gonna lie- i wanted to see pictures of the vagina looking vocal chords. thank you google! can't wait to see you at the wiltern. brian is fucking hilarious!

sexy said...