Sore Throat Simpatico

So that's why I always had a sore throat. I wasn't smoking enough Philip Morris cigarettes.

I’m on the edge of my driver’s seat following Lisa Stewart’s sore throat.

Every morning, I turn on my car radio while I’m driving my daughter to school and I listen to Lisa Stewart report the local sports news. This most recent sore throat was a really bad one.  When she signed off with her signature, “That’s your 88.9 FM sports minute - I’m Lisa Stewart” I whimpered a little bit and wanted to run a cup of hot herbal tea with honey and lemon over to the studio for her.

I don’t know Lisa Stewart personally, but like other radio people, I have a pretty good idea what she looks like, how old she is, and what her personality is like, because I listen to her talk every day. In my estimation, she’s a blond in her mid-30s and she’s smart and nice and fun. And athletic.

I also know that she has terrible allergies, possibly asthma, and every time she gets sick, she gets a hoarse voice.

[OK, I just looked her up and I was wrong. She’s no older than late 20s and she’s African American. I stand by the smart, nice, fun and athletic, though. Discovering what radio personalities look like is weird. I saw photos of all the rest of my morning radio friends on WQCS. Janie Gould and Drew Mello were no surprise, but Jon Bell, the guy who does the astronomy report (yes, only on NPR is there a morning outer space update) was way different than I pictured him. I thought he was older and way skinnier. He sounds bone-thin on the air.]

I feel for Lisa Stewart and her throat because she has a job in radio and it’s got to be tough to bleat out those sports scores when your allergies are affecting your voice. And I, too, used to have a chronic hoarse voice. No matter what germ I caught or disease I was suffering from - colds, flu, bronchitis, binge drinking, bent-back pinkie finger - I would get a sore throat and laryngitis.

Then, in college, I had a super bad case of laryngitis and couldn’t seem to stop talking, strained my voice and got nodules on my vocal chords.

Nodules on your vocal chords are worse than they even sound. Picture your vocal chords. (They look like the sexual organ of a hermaphrodite, with all kinds of folds and openings and protrusions. Plus they’re pink.) When you speak, the two sides open and close. When the little flaps get nodules on them, they can’t close all the way and you have a lot of air seeping in there and you get a raspy voice.

“I love your voice. You sound like Suzanne Pleshette.” More than one person said that to me. It’s not fun, not sexy, not good having a voice like Suzanne Pleshette, despite how cool she made it seem.  Because if you sound like Suzanne Pleshette, you also sound like Ernest Borgnine. When your voice is hoarse, it doesn’t have a lot of inflection, so if you want to make a point you have to really force your voice to get people to see your point and agree with you.

That’s what my speech therapist suggested as the main cause of my nodules not going away: That I wanted people to agree with me. My ENT doc refused to surgically remove the nodules and sent me to a speech therapist, who told me my nodules would never go away on their own or with surgery because I had adjusted my voice to force the air out of my larynx, because I wanted people to agree with me and like me. Tell me something I didn’t know.

Despite her low opinion of me, the speech therapist fixed my throat, but only after two semesters of therapy, breathing and voice exercises, and one silent weekend. I still suspect my roommates of pooling their money and paying the speech therapist to prescribe the silent weekend. They got a lot of laughs out of me and my notepad and hand signals.

Even years later, I lost my voice much quicker than a person who doesn’t care if people agree with her. A couple of hours shouting over loud music in a smoky bar, a simple case of the sniffles, or an argument about politics  was enough to make me hoarse and raspy for a week.

So when I hear that Lisa Stewart is having a bad voice day, I really do sympathize. I hope she realizes that when she’s sick, her fans are concerned for her well-being and we hope she gets well soon. And I do agree with her on most of those sports scores.

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