Saturday, June 30, 2012

So what is vocal cord paralysis anyway?

There are many different types of voice disorders. There are two kinds of vocal cord paralysis: bilateral and unilateral.

I have unilateral vocal cord paralysis on the right side. The paralysis was a result of a PDA ligation (heart surgery to close a valve) when I was 7 days old. I have had this voice since I was a baby. I was "officially" diagnosed by an ENT (Otolaryngologist) a couple years after high school. Up until then, I knew my voice was different, but didn't really know why.

So, what are the symptoms and what is life life with a paralyzed vocal cord? According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology symptoms include:

So, how do these typical symptoms translate into real life?
Both paresis and paralysis of voice box muscles result in voice changes and may also result in airway problems and swallowing difficulties.

Voice changes: Hoarseness; breathy voice; extra effort on speaking; excessive air pressure required to produce usual conversational voice; and diplophonia (voice sounds like a gargle).

Airway problems: Shortness of breath with exertion, noisy breathing, and ineffective cough.

Swallowing problems: Choking or coughing when swallowing food, drink, or even saliva, and food sticking in throat.
(More fun facts can be found at

My personal experience may be differnt from others with VCP, but here is a very brief look at what I experience on a daily basis:


  • Hoarseness - often asked if I am sick or have laryngitis
  • Breathy - soft, not clear/crisp, you can hear the extra air passing through
  • Extra effort on speaking - Often when talking to more than one person, especially in social settings (ie restaurant, on the street, mall, etc.) Voice will feel strained.
  •  "Gargled voice" - I often get excess mucus accumulation in my throat. I take guafinesen on a daily basis to combat this. (Drinking water helps too)
  • Laryngospams - Or vocal cord spasms - no fun what-so-ever. This happens randomly and when I don't take the guafinesen daily.  
Airway problems:
  • Shortness of breath with exertion - this what makes running a challenge
  • Noisy breathing - will sound wheezy at times
  • Ineffective cough - really only have a problem with this when I am ill
Swallowing problems:
  • Choking or coughing when swallowing food, drink, or even saliva, and food sticking in throat - luckily I have only had limited problems with this. The only problems I have had were mostly related to a medialization implant that extruded into my airway. (Another story for another day!) Had the implant removed and not has as much trouble with it since.
I think every person who has VCP deals with it in their own way. I have been through six surgeries. The first one to "fix" my cord and make me sound normal. The other five have been to "fix the fix".

I have tried pretty much every to "fix" medically available at the present time. I am at the end of the line. I am to a point in my life where I am working to not only accept but to EMBRACE who I am and how I sound. I believe God gave me this voice for a reason.

I am determined to acheive great things. Things I never thought possible before!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Greatness starts with a plan!

Well, in my world anyway! I am such a planner. Since running my first 5k in May, I have decided that I wanted to keep going. . . keep improving.

I have been searching the web for training programs that could help me improve. I have finally decided to just create my own and tweak what I have found online to work for my life.

I ran my first 5k in 39:21. It was a cold, rainy, windy day in May!

My Goal: Improve my pace from 12:40 to 11:40 (Finish around the 35 minute mark) I think this is totally do-able!

My Timeframe: 3-4 Months

My Plan:
Monday - XT (Cycling)
Tuesday - Run 3 miles at 11:40 pace
Wednesday - XT (Cycling)
Thursday - Run 3 miles at 11:40 pace
Friday - REST or XT
Saturday - Run 4 miles at an easy pace
Sunday - REST

This is probably not how the professionals would do it, but since I am not a professional, that is ok! I may need to adjust the days around. I want to work on being consistent in my running from week to week. But, the schedule also has to work around my family and work obligations!

I have two more 5k's scheduled - August 11th and September 8th!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This momma WILL run!

I have a paralyzed vocal cord. That is a fact. It has made me who I am . . .that is also a fact.

Many may assume that when you have a paralyzed vocal cord, it only affects the quality and sound of your voice. For those, who are living with a paralyzed cord, you know that is not the case. It also effects your breathing a great deal.

The old standard “run at a pace where you can hold a conversation” doesn’t hold true for me. I can barely walk and hold a conversation without having to pause during long sentences to catch my breath. I even get short of breath climbing up stairs!

That being said here is the down and dirty on what it is like for me to run for a long distance (and yes I consider anything over 1 mile a long distance!)
A “normal” run for me:
1. Quick, shallow breathes
2. Aching muscles in legs and chest
3. Chest and neck very tight
4. Excess mucus in throat, get congested easily, have to continually clear my throat
5. Expiratory Stridor (Very noisy, wheezy)

For many years having a paralyzed vocal cord and sounding the way I do, has defined me. I have let it limit me in many ways. I am on a journey to accept my voice disorder as it is. After 6 surgeries and little-to-no improvement in either voice quality or breathing, I NEED to stop searching for a fix. To let go of the elusive idea of “sounding normal”. Maybe just maybe, my "normal" is good enough!

Running is not just a challenge for me, it is physically and mentally difficult. For many years I have said “I can’t run a long distance because I can’t breathe”. No more! Now I say “This momma WILL run!”

I invite you to join me on this journey! I welcome your thoughts and insights on how to become a better runner.