Sunday, January 13, 2019

Wearing lately + laryngitis

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile now, since the saga with my voice, or lack thereof, has been dragging on for an eternity now. For those of you not interested in that story, I'm posting recent outfit photos for your entertainment. This is going to be a long post, so let's just jump right in!

Sweater: Anthropologie | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Tank: Grace and Lace | Leggings: Athleta (similar, similar) | Booties: Freebird "Harlo"

When it all started:
Here is the backstory. The weekend of November 17th, the husband and I flew to Miami for his birthday weekend. We had a NASCAR race to watch that Sunday and we flew home that Monday the 19th. The flight home, I started to get a little bit of a cough. It came out of nowhere, but I blamed the kid who sat behind me on the flight down to Miami because he was incessantly coughing the whole time. I remember being on the shuttle back to the airport parking garage in St. Louis having a minor coughing attack. When I got home that evening, I took some Zycam nasal spray in addition to the tablet dose. I've been doing that lately every time I feel like a cold is coming.

I woke up the next morning on the 20th feeling fine - the Zycam worked liked usual. I went about my day and since it was a Tuesday, I had to teach Pilates that evening - I teach two 1-hour classes back to back. At the start of my first class I felt like I was getting a little hoarse. By the end of my second class, I had only about 30% of my voice. That's when it all started. November 20th.

I felt otherwise fine, I was just hoarse. But since I had that coughing fit the night before, I thought maybe I was fighting some kind of cold. I did my usual things to fight the cold - Zycam, gargled salt water. By that Friday, I didn't really have any cold symptoms anymore, but still didn't have a voice. Again, I'm still thinking maybe I had some drainage, and was still fighting something. I had a leftover Z-Pak from a few months ago, so I went ahead and took that. For those that don't know, it's basically just a 3-day pack of antibiotics - I took one pill for 3 days. 

Earrings: Kendra Scott | Blazer: Leith | Tee: Express | Necklace: Charming Charlie | Leggings: Spanx | Heels: SJP "Fawn"

Urgent care:
I finished the antibiotics, but my voice still hadn't cleared up. After one full week without a voice, I went ahead and went to urgent care. I explained everything above to them, and they diagnosed me with laryngitis. Since laryngitis is not bacterial, they weren't surprised that the antibiotic didn't clear it up. Basically, the fact that antibiotics didn't cure it proved even more that it *had* to be laryngitis. They basically spent all of 1 minute on me. Prescribed me Naproxen (an anti-inflammatory) and sent me on my way. They told me if it didn't clear up in 2 weeks to go see my Primary Care Physician.

1st visit to my PCP:
2 weeks went by and I still had no voice, so off to my PCP I went. Again, he was pretty dismissive about the whole thing - didn't bat an eye that it had been 3 weeks at this point without me having a voice. He told me to stop taking Naproxen and he put me on an antibiotic (which totally didn't make sense to me considering the Z-Pak was unsuccessful) and Prednisone (steroid.) He told me if it didn't clear up in 2 weeks, to come back and see him.

I ended up only taking 3 doses of the antibiotics because it messed up my stomach like crazy. I finished the steroid, but then, I actually got sick sick. I had a wedding to go to on December 8th. The morning of the 9th, I could tell I was legit fighting a cold. By Monday the 10th, my nose was a faucet and I couldn't talk without coughing. I tried again to stock up on Zycam because I had to travel to Boston Monday and Tuesday that week. I was miserable in Boston living off cough drops and tissues to get me through the days.

That Wednesday, I spent the whole day at home sleeping. Thursday I felt TONS better, and by Friday I was pretty much back to normal. The following Tuesday was two weeks since I saw my PCP, and I still didn't have my voice. But, since I actually had gotten a cold the week prior, I didn't want to go back to my PCP right away, because I figured he would just blame the cold and dismiss me once again. So I waited.

Blazer: Express | Sweater: JCrew Factory (option) | Jeans: American Eagle | Heels: Kate Spade "Licorice" (other colors here)

2nd visit to my PCP:
Christmas came and went and I had to endure all my relatives asking what was wrong with my voice and if I was sick. That was fun! We got back on the 26th, and on the 27th, I went back to see my PCP. Again, he was very dismissive. He was ready to put me back on some meds and tell me to wait it out. He actually said that it was "normal" for this to take 2-3 months to clear up! He said he could send me to a specialist but that they would scope my throat and he thought that would be too invasive.

Dude. I NEED someone to be invasive at this point!! I realize I am relatively healthy, but this just does not seem right to me. I asked him to go ahead and refer me to a specialist, and he did. 

1st visit to the specialist:
My appointment with the specialist was December 31st. She actually scoped my throat by putting a camera shaped like a spaghetti noodle up my nose and down my throat!! She tried to see my vocal chords with a mirror at the back of my throat, but wasn't able to, hence the spaghetti noodle up my nose. (She did spray a topical anesthetic up my nose beforehand....) The good news was that she didn't see any growths, nodules, or polyps. She did see that my vocal chords were swollen. Based on everything I told her, she wasn't sure why the laryngitis happened since it's usually caused my trauma. She did a few things for me:

1. Ordered a second scope through another office with a slow motion camera that can see if my vocal chords are vibrating properly. She could see with her naked eye that they are opening and closing, but they're also supposed to vibrate like hummingbird's wings. That's something only the slow motion camera can see. That test usually takes 2-3 weeks to get scheduled, so she would order it now and in the meantime, prescribe me more meds.

2. She put me back on Prednisone.

3. She put me on acid reflux medicine. Even though I told her I don't have issues with acid reflux, she said it's common in everyone whether they realize it or not. Even in newborn babies, it happens at least 5 times a day. And that could be irritating my throat, causing the swelling to persist.

If the medicine helped me before the appointment of the second scope took place, we could simply cancel the second scope. I was relieved at this point to have some sort of plan of action.

I ended up getting a call from the second specialist on January 2nd saying they could see me as soon as the very next day! I was torn because the first specialist wasn't expecting me to be seen again for another 2-3 weeks. So I wasn't sure if I should delay this second scoping, or go ahead and do it since they had availability. I figured since I had gone this long already, I may as well get the second scope sooner rather than later. I scheduled that appointment for Monday, January 7th.

Dress: Express | Fleece lined tights: Target | Booties: Sam Edelman "Wilma"

2nd specialist visit:
I had to fill out a ton of questionnaires before the appointment - questions asking me things like 1) do people constantly ask what's wrong with your voice 2) is my "singing" voice affected 3) do I have a cough, etc.

I expected the scoping to be much of the same - uncomfortably up my nose, but it was not. She was holding onto my tongue - I had to stick it out as far as it would go. She then stuck the camera towards the back of my tongue - it was about the same size as a tire pressure gauge, just longer. Meanwhile, she asked me to make an "EEEEEEEE" sound. Except, in order to make an "EEEEEEE" sound, your teeth are pretty close together! Kind of hard to have your teeth close together when your tongue and a camera are in the way! So my sounds were coming out more like "OOOOOOO" sounds. And she kept making me do it over and over and over. 

I would gladly take a camera up my nose ANY day over that. Though it did not hurt, it was miserable. I was in tears.

The result of this second scope was much of the same - no nodules, no polyps, just swollen vocal chords. But, she spent a good half hour educating me about so many things I didn't know. So many things that could be adversely affecting my vocal chords.

1. The strength of my voice is about a 7 out of 10 because my vocal chords are swollen. If I continue to talk while they are swollen, eventually (and she did say it would take a long time), the vocal chord tissues could get callused, and that's how nodules form. Nodules take even longer to heal, and it's possible I could have permanent damage to my voice. 

2. I truly need to be on voice rest. She understood that the nature of my job may not allow me to go 100% silent, and if I do need to talk, I should only talk loud enough for someone to hear me in a 2-foot range. Whispering is bad. Projecting my voice in any way is bad. Which means scream singing is bad. I think about the last few weeks - we attended a wedding, I scream sang. We karaoke'd on New Year's Eve, I scream sang. I had the Bachelorette Party in Nashville, I scream sang to booty music. So not good.

I scream sang for 2 hours straight each at Justin and Taylor's concerts and didn't have laryngitis after either of those! I think that's why I never imagined sporadic singing could have such prolonged consequences.

3. Breath fuels your voice! She said I can use my breath to help improve my voice. I know I am guilty of being a shallow breather. Pilates has helped me be aware of a deeper breath, but I need to be more conscious of using that breath all the time, and not just when I'm working out.

4. Hydrate! The best thing I can do (other than voice rest) is stay hydrated. I'm supposed to drink half my body weight in ounces of water a day. I will tell you, I wasn't coming close to hitting that prior to this talk with her. She also told me to beware of bottled water because brands like Dasani and Aquafina are high in acid which could further irritate my vocal chords. I had to research PH numbers in bottled water - the higher the number, the better. I found the Trader Joe's Alkaline water and Essentia are the best and that's what I'm trying to drink. Otherwise, I'm better off drinking tap water.

Keeping with the hydration theme - I should avoid anything that dehydrates me including caffeine and alcohol. (Cue the violins!!!!!) But I think about December and how social of a month it was, i.e. I drank a lot, and I know I did. That, again, was not helping my voice.

5. Try not to eat anything 2 hours before going to bed. And if I don't have a choice, try to sleep propped up so that my food can properly make it's way down to my belly and digest correctly! Also, eat less than I think I need to and be aware of changes to my diet.

6. Vitamin C (i.e. Airborne and Zycam) can upset your stomach, which in turn can cause acid buildup that can adversely affect my voice. I think about all the times I was popping Zycam! While it may have helped the cold, it was only worsening my voice situation.

7. Cough drops can dry up your vocal chords, and your vocal chords need mucus to function properly. Yes, it helps with the cough, but it can worsen your voice. I thought about all of those cough drops I popped the week I went to Boston!!!

Jacket: BlankNYC | Tee: Gap | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Plaid top: American Eagle (shop current colors here) | Jeans: American Eagle | Booties: Vince Camuto (similar)

I was so happy that she spent so much time with me. It was pretty eye opening for me, and I appreciated her taking my situation seriously and making ME realize that it WAS a serious situation. After everyone I had seen, everyone was so dismissive. I think that's why I was also so careless in my behavior because no one seemed like it was a big deal. But if someone told me back in November, "Hey, stupid. If you keep using your voice, you could callus your vocal chords and cause permanent damage!" Uh, I would have gone silent then!!

Current plan and next steps:
I am officially on voice rest for 4 weeks. Why 4 weeks? The second specialist wants to see me again in 4 weeks. If there is no change to the swelling in my chords, then she is going to put me on voice therapy. I do NOT want to be on voice therapy. 

I sent an email to everyone I usually talk to at the office telling them I cannot talk. I lead so many meetings, so I am now delegating new leads during this time period. I also make sure my coworkers have our messaging app open so I can type to them during meetings and they'll relay what I say out loud to the group. I also have a text to speak app on my phone that I'm using when I need to relay quick messages. It's definitely challenging, but I just have to get through this.

Also, the Pilates studio owner took me off the schedule for two months. I'm not sure you realize how heartbreaking it is for me to not teach.

I answer the same questions over and over again, so I figured I'd answer them all here, too.

Does it hurt?
No, it absolutely does not hurt. I feel 100% normal, just the sound that comes out of my mouth isn't what it's supposed to be. It does not hurt at all when I swallow either.

Do they know how I got this?
No. You've read everything I've told all of the doctors. Based on everything, they really don't know what the cause is. Normal laryngitis clears up within 2 weeks and reacts favorably to steroids. That's the one thing that concerned the second specialist - she isn't sure why steroids has not helped the swelling go down....

Am I sick?
No, it's laryngitis meaning my vocal chords are just swollen. I'm not contagious. It's different than having a sore throat. 

Should I be eating a lot of ice cream?
No, it's my vocal chords. Food doesn't even touch my vocal chords, so ice cream wouldn't help. The specialist simply wanted me to focus on hydration because again, vocal chords need to be moist to work properly.

Is my voice getting any better?
Unfortunately, there's no intermittent gauge to see if it is getting better or not. I don't have a camera to look at my chords to see if the swelling has gone down, and I can't talk to see how it sounds like! Yes, I've had to say a couple of sentences here and there, but I haven't talked long enough to know if it sounds better. 


SO! To sum things up, I am officially one week into this no talking bit, and it's a lonely world not being able to talk. Yeah, I have other ways of communicating, but it's not the same. I feel left out. I do feel lonely. And I feel helpless. But, I have to do this because it HAS to be better at my next appointment. It just HAS to. That appointment is scheduled for Thursday, February 7th. And the best part? I'm in Mexico the entire week before that appointment (I come home on the 6th.) Should be fun to be at an all inclusive resort for a wedding without being able to talk, sing, or drink! 

Do you feel sorry for me yet?


  1. Oh I'm so sorry Caryl, this whole ordeal have been a nightmare I know. I'm also taking so many notes but I'm realizing in my daily life I talk very little. Sending you all the good vibes and hopefully by the 7th your voice is back to normal. Now give me that burgundy moto jacket.


  2. Wowza. Thanks for taking the time to give us the full scoop on this situation. It sounds terrible and miserable in every way!! The throat scoping...OMG. I would be gagging too much to make it possible to see anything!! I'm SO sorry this is happening to you and please do keep us posted on your follow ups and progress! And thanks for the bonus entertainment outfits, too. :)
    Gina || On the Daily Express

  3. I know we're been chatting about this a little back and fourth via text, but reading this just makes my heart hurt for you. You have a lot of people rooting, and supporting, you. If ANYONE, I mean anyone, can handle this with class, STYLE (of course!) and poise- its you. *hugs*

  4. Love those moto leggings! Ive been dying to splurge on the spanx ones!