For The Love of Singing!

For The Love of Singing!

Catch up on the beginning of my story here.

My last dance competition I participated in at Oglebay Resort in West Virginia.

After giving up softball and dance I progressively got more and more into music! Violin lessons, turned into flute lessons, which turned into piccolo lessons which were all trumped by singing. Prior to my knee surgery I knew that I loved singing – I mean I had been singing before I could even talk! I was active in the church choir, took musical theater lessons at Center for Theater Arts and I even sang in my first wedding when I was 8 years old! In high school I was not only in the chorus, but also was in Top 21(which, as the name suggests, was the top 21 singers in the school). Singing 2 periods a day was amazing! And then once musical season came around I was singing around the clock. Those are some of the best memories of my life 🙂

During my high school years I started having horrible stomach problems. I remember exactly when it first started. I was sitting in math class, bottom of building 2 (our high school was a campus style), 2nd desk back along the right wall. It was the worst! I immediately went to the nurse and went home. I thought it was the flu? It was unlike any other stomach ache I had ever had before. It felt like someone put their hand through my stomach and was just squeezing it as hard as they could. Awful. The only thing I could do was curl up in a ball and try to sleep it off. After having this happen a few more times I knew it was something else – not the flu! I was diagnosed with acid reflux and put on protonix.

I wasn’t always convinced it was acid reflux. The medicine helped the acidic taste I had in my mouth, but I can’t really say it ever cut down on the stomach aches I had. My doctor assured me that’s what it was and I thought well, they’re the doctor, they have to be right?

After awhile I started to notice that when I would try to talk high or sing nothing would come out! It was like I had lost my voice on certain notes or octaves. It was really scary and with my active involvement in singing I was really nervous!! Not again! Was I going to have to stop doing something I loved because of another medical problem?!!

Off we went to more doctors appointments – this time with a whole new crew of MDs. After an endoscopy and a few different MD opinions, my fears had become reality. I had vocal nodules.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Due to the acid I had in my throat and my constant singing, my vocal chords were inflamed and developed the nodes. Vocal nodes are not something you want to play around with. The first thing that pops into a singer’s mind when you hear vocal nodes is Julie Andrews. After undergoing a surgery to remove her nodules she never regained her 4 octave soprano range. Of course surgery is not the first option in treatment of vocal nodes, but still! That’s what I heard when they said the diagnosis.

Top 21 2003-2004 My Senior Year – This was from a Christmas performance down at Station Square in Pittsburgh, PA. I had to ‘mouth’ the words since I wasn’t allowed to sing 🙁

The first course of treatment is rest. Resting the vocal chords in hopes that the inflammation will go down and the nodules will go away on their own. I remember having to be silent for a good 6 weeks – minimal talking, no singing.

When do you think that was?

CHRISTMAS!

What do you think my favorite kind of music is to sing?

CHRISTMAS!

Aaaaayeeee I’m still mad about that. But I will say this – every year at Christmas time I’m thankful for the ability to sing.

This also was around the time of auditions for the school musical and district chorus. The State of Pennsylvania has District, Regional and State Choirs and it’s such a wonderful experience to be apart of. My Junior year I was selected to participate in District choir, but had fallen short for Regional. I was determined to make both my senior year… only to find out I wouldn’t be able to sing. It was heartbreaking to me at the time. Looking back now one could say ‘Jul, why stress out about minor things when you had the potential to ruin your voice for the rest of your life?’  Which is a valid point, but back then, singing was everything to me.

With much success the rest had helped my vocal chords and the nodules were on their way out. After the rest I was sent to a ‘singing therapist’. One of the coolest jobs I remember thinking. She helped teach me tricks to help take the strain off of my vocal chords while singing. I had applied to colleges as a biology major and had been accepted at West Virginia University. After having sessions with my singing therapist I called to have my major switched to Speech Pathology with a minor in Music.

Thank goodness after going through all of that my vocal nodules were gone and I vowed never to let them return!!

I was never really good at taking pills. Not sure why, but the thought of taking them just escapes me everyday! Back then I never thought to put alarms on my phone like I do now. Eventually I stopped taking my acid reflux medicine. After I did it never seemed to affect the amount of stomach aches I’d have. Honestly, I never saw a difference taking the meds or not.

Singing ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ 2007 in Mountaineer Idol, West Virginia University

So off to college I went. West Virginia University. WVU. Morgantown, WV. Heaven on earth. During those four years I had the time of my life. Changed majors about 4 times, studied abroad in Italia, made some amazing friendships and, according to my mom, drank too much. My stomach aches continued and if I’d complain to my mom she’d say it was due to drinking or not taking my meds. I knew that couldn’t be true! It was the same stomach ache as high school and I definitely wasn’t drinking in high school. So I suffered through the pains – my friend Ivona was so sweet she used to rub my tummy! Haha

Once I got out of school and started working the frequency of the pain increased. I knew there had to be something wrong! So I went and saw a stomach specialist. After completing about every test in the book I was diagnosed witttttthhhhhh …. nada. Nothing. Nothing was wrong. Nothing at all. Maybe a little acid, but nothing else. They said that they were migraines of the stomach and I was given some kind of medicine that was supposed to help them ease up.

When I was in middle school I used to have really bad migraines. It was about the time when I hit puberty so I think it had to do with hormones, but I was sent home from school so many times for migraines. Since then, my migraines had changed to not having a headache so much, but the left side of my body would go numb and my arm would hurt. (Pretty freaky the first time it happened and it definitely landed me in the ER to figure out what the heck was going on!) So saying that my stomach was having migraines now was a little weird, but since I was never the typical patient I guess it made sense.

To this day I still don’t know why I was getting stomach aches. Knock on wood, they have gone down in frequency. I still get them occasionally, but not like I used to. Thanks body for giving me some kind of break haha!

Does this sound familiar to you? Have you had a similar situation? I’d love to know if you have.

Recently I read an article about how the genetic marker that indicates psoriatic arthritis in the body is the same genetic marker that would make a person have IBS or Crohn’s (hence why we’re all on similar meds). It said in the article that if you have one of these you may have symptoms of the others. This was news to me. Could my stomach pains be related to that? Who knows! Anyone else have psoriatic arthritis and have mysterious stomach pains?

Ivona, Steph & I’s American Idol Audition Bracelets. New York City American Idol Auditions 2006

Oh well… luckily these stomach pains haven’t prevented me from singing. I continue to sing today – for weddings, in singing competitions, I just joined 2 choirs, tried out for basically all the tv singing shows – haha! This past August my parents took me on vacation to get away (best medicine ever) and we went to Disney for 2 days. At Hollywood Studios I auditioned for the American Idol Experience. I was picked and got to perform in a show! Just so happens that I ended up WINNING my show!! How awesome is that! I got to the final show of the day and ended up coming in 3rd, but it was such an amazing experience. So cool. So grateful. Definitely helped bring back my confidence and strength. I’ll have to write another post all about it. Just such a great, awesome, amazing experience.

So the mystery of my stomach pains still puzzles me. I feel that one day I’ll look back and be like O M G why did I not realize or know that at the time?

Until then, I’ll just keep praying that they STAY AWAY  and that I don’t have another one any time soon!

To continue reading my health journey, click here.

Wishing you a pain free day!!

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