May 22 update – 2 days post-Botox – with audio (2 samples)

Posted by Rob H on May 23, 2013

May 20 update

Well I went ahead and had my 3rd Botox shot done on Monday May 22, 2013. I put off the appointment a couple times (Cleveland Clinic does once a month)…and I actually could have put it off yet again, really my voice wasn’t bad. I did feel some tightening in my throat muscles, and my voice occasionally would fade out (but no spasms still)…so there was definitely a noticeable decline but only noticeable to ME. I realized that even though I noticed it, nobody around me noticed it. This key point was driven home by one of my employees, who has worked for me for 3 months now. I told my team that I was leaving early Monday for the shot, and most of them already knew about my voice condition so they knew what I was talking about. The newer employee didn’t know about it and asked, “what shot?” and so I explained it to her…she said she never would have guessed I had a voice problem. That made me feel GREAT!

So here below is a voice sample from earlier in the day Monday, May 22 (before my Botox injection). You can hear a slight decline in voice quality but still it’s nothing that’s going to affect my everyday life.

Audio MP3

May 22 update

So far today, I have not noticed much (if any) difference in my voice. I guess I would say it’s slightly softer, not quite as strong, but still no problems with projecting and being heard.

I did notice last night as I was drinking some water, I had my first 2 episodes of the “choking” that normally happens with the Botox. I had my head leaned back in a very relaxed position, and took a sip of water, and a little bit went down the wrong pipe. I didn’t think it was related to the Botox at first but changed my mind because it happened again a few minutes later. So I sat up a little straighter and had no more problems.

If that’s all the worse the symptoms get, I’ll be a VERY happy camper. I’m not expecting that, though. And in fact, if my voice doesn’t change and I don’t have any symptoms, I’ll probably begin to worry that the shot didn’t take.

A side note about this last shot

The first two times, I had 2 units bi-laterally. With the swallowing problems I had after the second shot, I talked to my doctor and he agreed that we should try a lower dosage this time to see if that minimizes the side effects. Of course, the benefit period is so outstanding, it’s almost worth the trade-off. If I could get the same side effects from my 1st shot, I would be fine. But the side effects from the second shot are what have me a little apprehensive. And it’s all a trial and error game anyway…trying to figure out the “sweet spot” and see what’s the perfect dose.

So without further adieu, here is the sample from this evening:

Audio MP3

Feb 23 update – 4 months post Botox (with audio)

Posted by Rob H on February 23, 2013

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a voice sample so I thought I would post one today. Take a listen to the sample below:

Audio MP3

As you can hear in the voice sample, my voice is still doing pretty good. If I had to estimate what percentage my voice is, I would say around 65-70%. I can still project my voice and raise my voice, albeit at a lower level than my pre-SD voice but still enough to across what I need to say. I did have a little trouble ordering a meal at an especially loud restaurant on Valentine’s Day but when I say “little”, that’s what I mean. It didn’t prevent me from ordering, I just had to repeat a portion of it which wasn’t a big deal.

As I have mentioned on previous (recent) blog posts, the experience I had for the first month to two months after the October 15 Botox shot was very different from the first shot I had. The side effects were different, the actual reaction of my voice was different, but so far the length of time (benefit period) seems to be similar. This time around, I probably only had what I would call a “good voice” (95% +) for less than a month. But I have had a “usable voice” for most of the past 4 months.

I am signed up to have my next shot done in March but I am hoping I can postpone it to April or even beyond. I would really like to try to stretch it out farther and farther if I can and maybe even overcome the SD completely some day. I’d like to try it at least…before going down the surgery route. I’ve always considered the Botox to be a temporary solution, as I do not wish to have this done for the rest of my life. But it is buying me some time to figure other things out.

One really great thing that happened recently is something that I used to take for granted. I went to a family get-together and NOBODY asked me how my voice was doing, or told me how good/bad my voice sounded. It was a normal, non-eventful day and I LOVED it. I know people mean well when they ask about it but the constant reminders can get a bit aggravating. For me, the best days are the days when I don’t think about my voice problem at all.

If there are any changes I’ll be sure to post them but for now, no news is good news. 🙂

Holding on for now…

Posted by Rob H on January 26, 2013

Hello, today I wanted to give another update on my voice condition as it’s been over a month since my last post. Actually I didn’t realize that it had been that long and my intention is to post more frequently but I’ve been pretty busy at work and home so I haven’t had as much time lately.

In general, if you don’t hear from me for extended times I am doing well. I tend to go about my normal life and mostly forget about my voice condition, which is obviously a great thing! It’s when my voice starts acting up, and changing, that I start posting updates to this blog.

Any time you want to email me, you can do so through the contact form on the Contact Me page. I love getting emails and comments on this blog, in fact I’ve received numerous emails from people all over the world who have found my blog and want to privately message me about something. So keep ’em coming, whether through email or comments in the blog posts.

How is my voice?

I’m sure that’s the main question my readers would like to know. Actually it’s holding steady since the last update. I am still able to talk in all types of situations, including loud environments and telephone calls, as well as drive-through ordering (which is a major challenge for SD sufferers). If I had to put a percentage on my voice, I would guess it’s at about 70% right now. Still no spasms, but I have been noticing lately some muscle fatigue in my neck. So I know it’s on the decline but as I experienced last time, the decline is very slow and may take a month or two.

In the last week, I had 3 days where my muscle strain in my neck produced headaches. The other 4 days I did not have headaches. It’s easily controlled with some Tylenol but it’s still annoying. Of course being winter, everybody is sick off & on and I’ve always noticed a deterioration in voice quality when I have a cold. Since I do have a minor cold, I believe that’s what’s contributing to the muscle strain and headaches. Today as I type this blog post, it’s not as bad so we’ll see how it lasts.

What a difference a year makes

As I was getting ready to type this today, I went back and read some of my old posts from last year. Wow. It’s interesting to hear my voice samples, and to read about my trials & tribulations as my journey was just beginning. This month (January) marks one full year already since I started this blog. And what a year it’s been. It’s definitely been helpful to me to write out my thoughts on this blog, and I believe it’s been helpful to others as well so I am going to continue on for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately I’ve been a pretty good candidate for the Botox treatment and it’s worked pretty well for me. It’s allowed me to live my life like I lived it before this condition. I am weary of continuing with the Botox treatments for years and years…I still want a permanent cure so I think at some point in the future, surgery will be a choice I may make. But I am in no hurry. I want to make an informed decision and learn as much about all the various options out there that I can learn about.

Thank you readers for sticking with me so far, and here’s hoping you find success in the new year 2013 and beyond!

Vast improvement (with audio)

Posted by Rob H on May 7, 2012

In my last post Saturday, I briefly mentioned that I was having some breaks in my voice, similar to a teenage boy going through puberty. I was hoping this was the start of my “good voice” trying to break through. Interestingly, I went to a bar late Saturday night and had difficulty talking above the bar noise – as you could hear in my voice sample earlier that day, it was tough to speak loudly enough to be heard. However outside in the parking lot afterwards, without the background noise of the bar, I suddenly was able to string together multiple normal-sounding sentences.

Then Sunday (yesterday), my good voice stuck around for much of the day. In fact, I had my good voice for most of the the morning and early afternoon! I was able to sing (softly) at church, I still couldn’t hit the higher notes and I still couldn’t sing at a normal singing volume but it was nice to have SOME range. And, of course, it was nice to be able to talk again.

Partway through the day, about mid-afternoon, my voice returned to a whisper, similar to my last voice sample. This lasted for several hours, with occasional bursts of normal-sounding voice. Then in the evening, my normal voice came back again. Overall, I would say I had a good, normal voice for about 75% of the day.

I still do not have much power behind my voice, but I noticed I was able to raise my voice a little when calling my wife from the other room. Another observation I made yesterday: when I was in a noisy environment, my whispery/bad voice came back – even if I was in the middle of a good voice period. I think it had something to do with me trying to talk louder to compensate for the noisy environment. It’s something I will have to keep monitoring – I’m hoping that my voice continues to “fill out” and get back to the good ol’ days when I could project, raise my voice if needed, and even yell.

Update: 10:00 pm – Here is a voice sample from this evening:

Audio MP3

April 24 – Day one of post-Botox in the books (with Audio)

Posted by Rob H on April 25, 2012

I started off this morning with a slightly better voice, which I attributed to my normal “morning voice” along with the fact that I have a little bit of a cold. This makes my voice go into a different vocal range than normal and I’ve had this happen before, where it temporarily masks the underlying spasmodic dysphonia.

Here’s my voice sample from the morning:

Audio MP3

As you can hear, not too bad. What I didn’t know was that the Botox was either just starting to kick in, or about to kick in because by about 11:00 this morning, I noticed that my voice was changing. It went from being “spasmodic” to just being “raspy” or “weak”. It took me a few hours to believe that the spasms were gone, because I’ve had stretches where my voice smooths out and I have what I call my “breakthroughs” where my voice sounds pretty decent. But inevitably, these breakthroughs only last several minutes, not several hours. So as I went through my day and started receiving positive feedback from my co-workers, I didn’t want to jinx it by saying the Botox was working.

Lo and behold, as the day went on, I continued to experience the same voice, without the spasms. I must say it was a very good feeling, even though my voice is not back 100%, just to be able to speak with no breaks or “strangled” sound to my voice. I was able to use the phone, I was able to have lengthy conversations with my co-workers, and basically I came out of my shell a bit today.

Here is a voice sample from the evening, where you can hear the raspy, weaker voice I talked about:

Audio MP3

This is a pretty stark contrast from my morning voice and just listening to the two recordings back-to-back is interesting. I don’t know how long the weaker voice will last, my doctor said it can be anywhere from a couple days to a week, or even up to several weeks, everybody responds differently to the different dosages. I never thought I would be happy to have a voice that sounds like it does in the previous sample. By normal standards, it sounds like I have a cold and I should be in bed. But after suffering from spasmodic dysphonia, it feels great to have a voice again. I’ll continue to hope and pray that it improves over the coming days, weeks, and months.

Finally had a better day :)

Posted by Rob H on April 20, 2012

Well my last post had me a bit frustrated with one of my worst days in a long time…and over the past couple days, my voice stayed in a “bad” range. If I had to grade my voice on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, I would say my voice was a 2 for the last few days. Today, for most of the day it was back up a couple notches to a 4 or 5. I was able to have a couple lengthy (multiple minute) conversations today where my voice actually held up. In fact, a couple times my throat muscles loosened up after several minutes of talking, and I was able to speak multiple sentences in a near-normal voice. (more like a 8 out of 10)

This is as close as I’ve come to what I call my “breakthrough” week I posted about earlier. During that week, I had a few moments of darn-near normal voice (one of which I recorded). Today, I didn’t have it THAT good but I definitely felt good. It’s now nearly 11:00 at night and I don’t feel the normal muscle fatigue I feel at the end of each day. I don’t know of anything different I’ve done, I didn’t get any more sleep than normal…I did go on a “date” with my wife last night and we saw a late movie, I didn’t get to bed until late but I still slept 8 hours so I don’t think that factored into it. Last night while out on our date, my voice was pretty terrible and my wife even told me not to talk as she could hear me struggling. (good thing we went to a movie, huh?)

Then, suddenly, without warning, my voice dramatically improved today. It’s a head-scratcher, but I’ll take it. I think I made 5 phone calls at work today that were at least 5-10 minutes each. I know I can’t do that on most days, because my phone voice is typically worse than my normal speaking voice. Again, I don’t know why. It does seem like it snowballed a little bit, I had a little success in the morning, then more in the afternoon (when I normally don’t have a good voice)…then it kept on rolling all day.

Botox update

I did officially get clearance from my health insurer for my appointment Monday. So my appointment is scheduled and I will be having my very first Botox injection done. I will have updates here on my blog (I’m thinking of doing a slightly different type of blog post that day…more of a running blog to describe my emotions/experiences throughout this much-anticipated day).

I have a good idea what to expect regarding the procedure itself…what I don’t know is how well it will work. Everybody responds differently and there is typically a period of trial and error until the doctor figures out the right dosage. So I don’t expect this to be perfect but even a little bit of progress will be wonderful. I have a 20-year class reunion coming up in July so I’d obviously like to have a normal voice for that. Some of these people haven’t seen me in 20 years and I don’t want their first impression to be like I sound now. That means I have a little bit of anxiety about this Botox injection…knowing that the typical person lasts 3 months, that puts me right there at my reunion. And knowing that the first one is a big unknown, it’s really hard to know what will happen. There’s probably not enough time to have another shot done before then so I’ll just have to hope it holds on long enough (provided it works).

My “Good Voice” returned for a bit…(with Audio)

Posted by Rob H on February 27, 2012

This morning, I recorded the voice sample below. As you can hear, my voice quality was outstanding and as close to “normal” as I’ve had in awhile. I have actually had little mini-glimpses like this every day for the past week. It usually only lasts a few minutes but it’s more than I’ve had in months. Up until this last week, the only “good voice” samples I have had are in very short bursts, like one or two words. But the fact that it’s lasting several minutes is very encouraging to me.

Here is the voice sample:

Audio MP3

Transcript of audio:

Today is Monday, February 27th, 2012 and this is a voice sample from this morning, it’s about 9 o’clock in the morning. And, as you can hear my voice is in pretty good shape this morning…it’s typically better in the morning and I wanted to try and get a voice sample from the morning as opposed to the evenings (because I usually take my voice samples in the evenings). My voice is usually not THIS GOOD, but I’m hoping it holds up. And my doctor told me to continue talking and keep my voice in this zone, if I do find that zone, try to basically re-train my muscles to have my voice in this range. My voice feels really good right now, I don’t feel any tension in my throat, and I would say my voice is pretty much normal at the moment. So, this is some of what I’ve been experiencing over the last week, since my last appointment at the Cleveland Clinic which is: I’ve had some stretches of normal voice, (not very much) but it’s more than I had before, so I’m really hanging my hat on that, and happy that it’s happening. Other than that, I do have another appointment tomorrow at the Cleveland Clinic, and hopefully my voice continues to stay this good. And if not, then obviously I can get some more treatment tomorrow and hopefully get something fixed. You can hear my voice is tightening up a little bit again, so I’m going to end this voice sample. But, this is Rob and I will talk to you soon.

Small victories seem huge to me :)

Posted by Rob H on February 23, 2012

Just wanted to post that yesterday, during a lunch break at work, I was talking to two people in the break room and for one shining minute, my throat muscles loosened up and I was able to talk for about a full minute with a normal speaking voice.

I could feel exactly WHEN the throat muscles relaxed, and I was able to keep my voice there in that tone for longer than I’ve been able to do, since my condition has manifested.

Typically I can blurt out short, quick responses with a fairly normal-sounding tone. But once I keep speaking, my voice goes back to the strained-sounding tone. In this instance, I was able to keep talking without reduction in voice quality. It felt so good! The two people I was talking to, also noticed it and even commented how it sounded good. So the extra confirmation (unsolicited, mind you)…was very encouraging.

One more minor victory: my wife called me on the phone today and once again, my voice started in the “right spot” (which happens a lot, when I answer the phone my first one or two words are usually pretty normal-sounding)…but in this case, my good voice lasted longer than usual – about 15-20 seconds, and again I received confirmation that it sounded better. It’s amazing really how little things like that go a long way for me.

A couple interesting observations I’ve made

Posted by Rob H on January 21, 2012

This is a short blog post but I wanted to point out a couple weird observations about my spasmodic dysphonia. It can be a finicky condition as I’m finding out.

The other day, my wife and I went to a friend’s house along with some other couples and we all played the game “Catchphrase”. If you’ve never played it, basically it’s like an electronic version of Hot Potato and you’re given a clue on the screen, and you have to describe the clue without mentioning the actual clue word. Once your teammates guess the clue word, you pass the game to the next person and they do the same thing. The last person holding the game unit when the timer goes off is the loser.

So I had some apprehension about playing this, since my voice is not working well – I wondered if my teammates would be able to hear my clues. Lo and behold, every time it came to my turn, I was able to spit out the clue in a near-normal voice with no problems. It seems to me that the concentration/distraction of giving the clue redirected my focus from speaking to quickly thinking up clues.

The second scenario occurred at work yesterday I received 4 separate phone calls from clients. Before each call, I was apprehensive about taking the call because I wondered if my voice would hold out long enough to be effective. (some of these calls, the client is angry and I need to calm them down).

Similar to the Catchphrase results, my phone calls were practically normal – my focus on the customer and their situation seemed to redirect my voice process somehow.

For now, I am reporting these just in case the trend continues. It might just be coincidence, only time will tell. But if this trend continues, I will need to look into perhaps retraining my brainwaves or something, to trick my brain into making my voice work.

Up and Down Day (with Audio)

Posted by Rob H on January 18, 2012

Today was a rather interesting day.  My voice had some highs and lows all in one day.

At work today, my voice was close to normal for a large part of the morning and early afternoon.  I even took a phone call from a client and my voice was “nearly normal” for the entire 3-4 minute call.  That was very exciting and encouraging to me.  I know my voice cracked a time or two during the call, but overall the person on the other end of the line didn’t notice, I’m sure of it.

That was the “up” part of my day, and it’s funny how memorable that one phone call was to me.  Little things like that are more important to me than they were before my voice started going bad.

The “down” part of my day happened later in the evening.  My wife and I went bowling and by that time of day, it was as if my voice was tired out and I couldn’t speak very well.  In fact, it got so bad that my wife just told me not to talk since she could tell I was struggling.

I took a quick recording of my voice just after I returned from bowling and you can click on the “Play” button below to hear the recording:

Audio MP3


Transcript of audio:

This is Rob Henry, I’m recording this on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.  Tomorrow morning, I’m going in for a doctor’s appointment:  my first evaluation with a voice specialist (voice therapy).  It’s about 10:00 at night, I just wanted to record my voice for the records.